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Full text of "Political realism and the crisis of world politics;: an American approach to foreign policy"

UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/politicalrealismOOthom 



POLITICAL REALISM 

AND THE 

CRISIS OF WORLD POLITICS 



POLITICAL 

REALISM 

AND THE CRISIS 

OF 
WORLD POLITICS 

(lAu American approach 
to Foreign T^oltcy 



BY KENNETH W. THOMPSON 



PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS 

i960 



Copyright © i960 by Princeton University Press 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

L.C. Card: 60-5758 




Printed in the United States of America by 
Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 






DEDICA TED 

TO THE MEMORY OF 

MT FATHER 



PREFACE 



This little volume has its origins and growth in the author's 
experiences over a decade of study, teaching, and writing. 
During this period, an important trend of thinking on foreign 
policy has emerged within the United States. It is an approach 
which expresses deep and grave misgivings concerning the 
main currents of popular and public writing and thinking on 
international relations. It represents a reaction against a view- 
point dominated by legalistic and moralistic points of em- 
phasis. It carries its own religious and moral commitments 
but places these commitments in the context of the harsh 
realities and difEcult choices of international politics. Few pub- 
lic figures or aspiring political leaders have openly espoused 
the new approach, particularly during the years of their pub- 
lic service. Nevertheless, many of them, perhaps more than 
they know, have been influenced by insights embedded in the 
new tradition. For the most part, political realism has en- 
gendered controversy and debate rather than widespread con- 
sensus or agreement. Its spokesmen have sometimes felt con- 
strained to qualify their loyalty even to the beliefs of others 
writing and thinking within the same tradition. It is not a 
mark of popularity to carry the name political realist. A full 
understanding of the underlying philosophy of this approach 
is needed, however, if American statesmen and scholars are 
to advance public understanding and awareness of the realities 
of international life and close the gap between what leaders 
feel and do and what the people imagine they do. Therefore 
the central aim I have had in mind is a careful explication, 
first, of the origins of political realism as an approach to 
American foreign policy, and, secondly, of its implications 
for the major unsolved fundamental problems of America's 
relations with the rest of the world. 

The immediate stimulus for the writing of the book was 
the invitation to deliver the Riverside Memorial Lectures in 

vii 



PREFACE 

the winter of 1958. These lectures, devoted each year to an 
examination of the relation between Christian principles and 
the broad concerns of American society, gave me an oppor- 
tunity for the development of some of the major themes 
around which the book took shape. The aims and purposes 
of the Lectureship have been stated as follows: "The River- 
side Lectures express the conviction of The Riverside Church 
[New York City] that the Christian Faith and academic dis- 
ciplines need to understand each other at the level of their 
most significant developments, and that the lines of communi- 
cation and conversation need to be kept open by scholars in 
the sciences, humanities, and religion." I am especially in- 
debted to Mr. James Livingston and Dr. Gordon Chamberlin 
for their continued interest and encouragement. In the prep- 
aration and revision of the manuscript, I have had the benefit 
of the wise counsel and patient help of Miriam Brokaw and 
Herbert Bailey. 

That a study of political realism can be associated with an 
inquiry into the relevance of ethics for international affairs 
should not be surprising. The political realists whose writings 
I have described and analyzed are almost without exception 
men whose concern with the moral dilemmas of modern life 
has driven them to attempt to establish a philosophy of inter- 
national relations. Each of them has tried to be positive while 
avoiding naivete, moral though shunning moralism, and sys- 
tematic without excluding the ambiguities and uncertainties of 
international life. I am particularly indebted to certain indi- 
vidual scholars like Hans J. Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr, 
and George F. Kennan, who, while bearing no responsibility 
for the shortcomings or inadequacies of my own writings, 
have been a source of inspiration and guidance. If this vol- 
ume serves to underscore some of the fundamental issues with 
which these writers have been concerned and which remain 
crucial problems in the years ahead, it may have contributed 
to the continuing dialogue on the principles of American 

viii 



PREFACE 

foreign policy. If this dialogue is maintained free of the un- 
natural restraints or untimely restrictions that self -acknowl- 
edged sources of authority or conformity seek to impose on 
every generation, the future of the Republic will be brighter 
and more hopeful. Each successive generation of observers 
and interpreters carries the heavy burden of appraising and, 
if necessary, correcting or enlarging the reach and grasp of 
those who have gone before. I see the contribution of the 
political realists in this light. I am confident that each of them 
would point to the unfinished tasks of broadening and deep- 
ening the realist tradition. In the end, I conceive my study 
as a primer or introduction to the main currents of a single 
challenging approach to the perplexing issues of contemporary 
foreign policy. I could wish that younger scholars in par- 
ticular might draw from the broad outlines and unsolved 
problems of this approach an agenda for vigorous reflection 
and research. My own hope and intent for the future would 
be to find a place among those who, in William James's well- 
chosen phrase "stubbornly attempt to think clearly," wherever 
the evidence may lead them. In this respect, political realism 
is an invitation to seek the truth and not a termination of 
free inquiry. It provides a framework and not a doctrine, a 
set of hypotheses rather than a list of answers. The pages that 
follow have been written in this spirit and I would profoundly 
hope might be read this way, however emphatic or outspoken 
I have been at certain points in explanation or analysis. 

K.W.T. 

November igS9 



IX 



CONTENTS 



Preface vii 

PART ONE 

American Foreign Policy: Theorists 
and Practitioners 

1. Main Currents of an American Approach to 

International Politics: Philosophers, Col- 
umnists, and Policy Planners 3 

2. Liberalism and Conservatism in American 

Statecraft 62 

3. Statesmen as Philosophers: Written and Living 

Theories 9 1 

PART TWO 

The Central Problems of Foreign Policy 

4. The Limits of Principle in International Politics : 

Necessity and the New Balance of Power 135 

5. The Problem of Isolationism and Collective 

Security 1 74 

6. The American Dilemma 203 

PART THREE 

Peace and Political Realism 

Epilogue 245 

Index 257 



TART ONE 

AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY: 
THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 



CHAPTER 1 

main currents of an 

american approach to international 

politics: philosophers, columnists, 

and policy planners 



Interests . . . not ideas dominate directly the actions 
of men. Yet the "images of the world" created by these 
ideas have very often served as switches determining the 
tracks on which the dynamism of interests kept the 
actions moving. — max weber 



In these turbulent and uncertain times, any honest mind 
approaching the problems of world politics is tormented by a 
sense of inadequacies and limitations. It is true that we know 
more about the world in which we live than we did a century or 
two ago. Statistics are better, and knowledge of the past is more 
complete. We have better birth rates, death rates, and emigra- 
tion rates. Through the public press and democratic institutions 
men have a greater stake in their government j the elemental 
factors responsible for the growth and prosperity of nations 
are better understood and controlled. Yet, although knowl- 
edge is greater, the factors that must be assessed have increased 
in number and complexity to a bewildering degree. In place 
of the isolated rivalries of the past, we are facing struggles 
that involve directly or indirectly the whole habitable globe. 
Our problems have become so vast, their solution so painful 
and doubtful, and the weight of contingencies so overwhelm- 
ing that even for the wisest statesman foreign policy is at least 
three-fourths guesswork. Moreover, for all our statistics, 
historical and economic knowledge, and responsible govern- 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

ments, we have had little success in foreseeing future events, 
let alone coping with present ones. 

Failures in political prophecy are, of course, nothing new. 
History records countless examples of decisive political devel- 
opments that caught even the most experienced observers by 
complete surprise. In the eighteenth century neither Benjamin 
Franklin nor Frederick the Great appear to have anticipated 
the approaching French Revolution, yet both were constant 
observers of the course of French affairs. Nor did someone 
as active in revolutionary politics as Madame Roland make a 
single allusion before 1789, in her voluminous correspondence, 
to the impending downfall of the French monarchy. Napoleon 
was confident that "Europe will be either Cossack or Republi- 
can," and Pitt prophesied that the end of the Papacy was 
in sight. 

Political prophecies concerning foreign states have most 
often fallen short of the mark. The knowledge that people 
possess of the social and political conditions of another coun- 
try is almost always so imperfect, superficial, and cribbed and 
confined by parochialism that popular generalizations tend to 
go widely astray. In 1760 Rousseau predicted that in twenty 
years England would be ruined and have lost her liberty. The 
statesmen of Europe joined philosophers such as Rousseau in 
proclaiming England a decadent and second-class power, a 
sort of insular Poland, selfish, faction-torn, without nerve and 
consistency, and destined probably to fall under Russia's 
domination. The illusion that England was fast declining was 
shared by Joseph II of Austria, Frederick II of Prussia, and 
Catherine II of Russia. These erroneous estimates provided 
the basis for momentous policies which affected the future of 
the world. In much the same way the Kaiser and Hitler 
underestimated both Britain and America and chose courses 
that changed the history of the West and of the rest of the 
world as well. 

If these experiences carry any lesson for the present, it is 



MAIN CURRENTS 

that future events may be decisively shaped by the estimates 
of Britain or Russia or India or China presently being made 
as a basis for contemporary foreign policies. 

Fortunately we also find in history examples of leaders who 
pierced the veil of the future, who foresaw the course of 
history more clearly than their contemporaries. We find phi- 
losophers and statesmen who were attuned to the larger forces 
and impending issues that now are seen as the major factors 
that determined the future. Burke saw with a clarity greater 
than his contemporaries the potential strength of the American 
Colonies, the rise of the peoples of India, and the irrepressible 
dynamism of the French Revolution. His world view was 
faulty in many respects but, because he saw the truth of a few 
essential principles, his writings cast a golden shaft of light 
into the dark corners of the future. 

Polybius predicted the rise of the Roman Empire and its 
unifying role throughout the Mediterranean world and fore- 
saw the signs and causes of its eventual decline. De Tocque- 
ville anticipated the race problem in America, the coming of 
the "War Among the States," and forecast the appearance of 
those recurrent and perennial problems of democracy such as 
the tyranny of public opinion, the decrying of personal excel- 
lence and superior virtue, and the intolerances of patriotism. 
At the same time he had the wisdom to confess the short- 
comings of "all the ingenious and erroneous systems with the 
aid of which men had tried to explain a present which was not 
yet clearly seen and to predict a future which was not seen at 
all." Karl Marx predicted that the seizure of Alsace-Lorraine 
by Prussia in 1871 — which Bismarck also viewed with mis- 
givings — would throw France into the arms of Russia and 
force Germany to confront the combined strength of the Slavs 
and the Latins. 

More recently, in March 1936, Mr. Winston Churchill 
warned Britain and a world not yet prepared to heed his 
words: "For four hundred years the foreign policy of England 

5 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

has been to oppose the strongest, most aggressive, most domi- 
nating Power on the continent and particularly to prevent the 
low countries falling into the hands of such a power." And he 
asked: ". . . which is today the power which is strongest, and 
which seeks in a dangerous and oppressive sense to dominate. 
Today, for this year, probably for part of 1937, the French 
Army is the strongest in Europe." But no one feared France. 
He concluded: "Therefore, it seems to me that all the old 
conditions present themselves again, and that our national 
salvation depends upon our gathering once again all the forces 
of Europe to contain, to restrain, and if necessary to frustrate, 
German domination."^ However, in the same debate before 
the House of Commons, Neville Chamberlain saw little in 
the "necessarily excessive" figures on German rearmament, 
and for the moment his appraisal won public acceptance. 

As we reflect on these prophecies, the question arises, why 
were some philosophers and statesmen, like Burke, Churchill, 
and de Tocqueville, more prescient and farsighted than 
others? What accounts for their greater wisdom? What part is 
the outgrowth of reason, and how much is the result of the 
instinctive and acquired knowledge that civilization accords 
its keenest observers? Perhaps the most compelling of possible 
answers is one offered by Mr. Churchill, who has many times 
pointed to the importance of an organizing theory: "Those 
who are possessed of a definite body of doctrine and of deeply 
rooted convictions upon it will be in a much better position to 
deal with the shifts and surprises of daily affairs."^ Accord- 
ingly, political prediction, insofar as it rests at all upon an 
intellectual process, is little more than historical generaliza- 
tion which varies according to the knowledge and acumen of 
the prophet. In one sense the "right" political prediction is no 
more than the outcome of a powerful and creative mind play- 

^ Winston Churchill, The Second World War: The Gathering Stormy 
Vol. I (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1948), pp. 207-09. 
^ Ibid.y p. 210. 



MAIN CURRENTS 

ing on a situation. Despite modern ingenuity in contriving 
devices to replace superior human judgment, no substitute has 
yet been found for practical wisdom, nor a Univac to replace 
unique moral and intellectual endowments. It may not be 
stretching a point to say that Rembrandt and Picasso are to 
the minor painters what Thucydides and Churchill are to the 
minor philosophers and statesmen. 

On the other hand, it is fair to ask whether these heroic 
figures are unique in every respect or whether they embrace 
certain common approaches, concerns, and qualities.^ This 
much can be asserted: In political theory in general, at least in 
Western civilization, and in the theory of international politics 
in particular, the lasting contributions have come from men 
who resisted the fateful divorce of theory from practice. We 
are tempted to ask if there is not a fundamental and inescapa- 
ble link between men's grasp of the relationships between 
theory and practice in international politics and the enduring 
value of their views. In any event, from Machiavelli to 
Clausewitz, from Admiral Mahan to Hugh Gibson and 
George F. Kennan, we note a fruitful relationship between 
their direct struggles with the intractable facts of political 
behavior and their evaluation of these facts. It would appear 
that political prognosis thrives on political practice, however 
this practice may be experienced and however the hazards and 
perils of a too-passionate involvement or commitment are met. 
Perhaps a parallel can be drawn with the medical sciences, 
where research and practice are intimately related and where 
the experimenter is never far removed from the patient's 
bedside. Medical scientists take for granted the link between 
human problems and research. The case, then, for political 
science — conceived as a pure science of human behavior or as 
the worship of apparently irrelevant abstractions unrelated to 

^ This question is indeed a long- one, crying out for much study and 
research. There is a surprising dearth of literature on the problem, although 
the sociological writings of men like Philip Selznick and the writings on 
political theory of men like Hans J. Morgenthau touch on the problem. 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

life's problems or of towering objectivity in social affairs — may 
in the end prove to be based on a false conception of the 
nature of science itself. 

The question still remains, of course, whether we can distill 
from past international politics as viewed by some of our 
wisest interpreters a body of common principles or a core of 
residual truths reflecting the essence of their approach. Funda- 
mentally this is the question which has been asked either 
explicitly or by implication for more than two decades by 
the philosophers, columnists, and policy planners who com- 
prise the subject of the present article. This question may 
conceivably escape man's reach. Nevertheless a few of the 
pointers that have guided our school of writers along the way 
can be set down at the outset and reexamined throughout the 
course of this study. 

First of all, great students of international politics have 
brought to their task a lively sense of history. We do well to 
remind ourselves of this, however obvious it may seem, for 
modern man, in his impatience to confront and solve present- 
day problems, is by instinct suspicious if not contemptuous of 
this approach. How often one hears that history never repeats 
itself, or that no one ever learns anything from history ! How 
frequently do the words "let the dead past bury itself" or 
"change is the first law of the universe" resound in both 
scholarly and public discourse! This conviction may stem 
partly from an incurable faith in progress and in the upward 
march of mankind. Most of us shared the vague expectation 
that the First World War and more recently the Second 
World War were to usher in a new era, replace old ideals 
with new, establish the human family on a more amicable 
basis, and eliminate once and for all the poisonous emotions 
infecting past international relations. Few if any observers 
saw these tragic events as a fatal retrogression from which we 
could recover only by long and painful struggles. More 
basically, however, the rejection of history involves the substi- 

8 



MAIN CURRENTS 

tution of spurious and simple-minded interpretations for the 
onerous demands of a patient search for meaning among the 
complexities of the past. 

It is said that Sir Neville Henderson, Britain's Ambassador 
in Berlin from 1937 to 1939, felt that his reading of Mein 
Kamff on board ship when he was returning home from Latin 
America fully prepared him for observing developments in 
Germany. He apparently believed that the underlying appeal 
of German militarism, the legacy of Bismarck and Frederick 
the Great, and Germany's historic objectives were of little 
immediate importance. His illusion is traced in Failure of a 
Mission. It is instructive to contrast these views with the 
cogent analysis, informed by history, of Sir Eyre Crowe of the 
British Foreign Office, which offered a rational basis for 
policies that might have prevented a world war. More re- 
cently an American Secretary of State declared that the only 
prerequisite for understanding Soviet foreign policy is the 
reading of Stalin's Problems of Leninism — as if this could ex- 
plain Soviet tactics toward Yugoslavia, Sino-Russian rivalries, 
or Soviet ties with anti-revolutionary dictatorships in the 
Middle East. 

Great social groupings, classes, and nations tend within 
broad limits to react in similar ways to similar situations. 
History in terms of these recurrent patterns provides the 
ground on which more intricate and individual patterns of 
social conduct can be worked out. Mr. Churchill's firm grasp 
of world politics was rooted in history. His conception of the 
Grand Alliance was based on the lessons of the coalition that 
resisted Louis XIV. His historical masterpiece, Marlborough: 
His Life and Times, was written during the decade of "The 
Gathering Storm," about which he warned not ex post facto 
but as the first signs of dark clouds were appearing on the 
horizon. As Marlborough was the linchpin of the first Grand 
Alliance that thwarted the French attempt to dominate Eu- 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

rope, so Churchill played a parallel role in marshalling 
resistance to Germany's expansion. 

There is, of course, no one plot in history, despite the best 
efforts of philosophers to find one, nor can history provide a 
detailed roadmap to guide men from one point to the next. 
H. A. L. Fisher, in the Preface to his History of Euro-pe, 
holds up a warning sign when he declares : "I can see only one 
emergency following upon another as wave follows wave . . . 
only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize 
in the development of human destinies the play of the con- 
tingent and the unforeseen." However, his scorn for grand 
designs and theories fixes primarily upon one form and phi- 
losophy of history. This is the philosophy of progress. In 
criticism of the theory of progress he writes: "The fact of 
progress is written plain and large on the pages of history j but 
progress is not a law of nature. The ground gained by one 
generation may be lost by the next. The thoughts of men may 
flow into the channels which lead to disaster and barbarism." 

While there is no one plot in history, there are, nonetheless, 
rhythms, patterns, and repetitions. Otherwise there could be 
no understanding nor valid generalization. Thucydides, de- 
spising contemporary renown, asked only that his History of 
the Peloponnesian War be considered not "as an essay which 
is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for 
all time." For he said: "If it be judged useful by those in- 
quirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past, as an aid 
to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of 
human things must resemble, if it does not reflect it, I shall 
be content." In the same spirit, was it not Sir Walter Raleigh 
who said that "the end and scope of all history . . . [is] to 
teach us by example of times past such wisdom as may guide 
our desires and actions"? Different types of studies have their 
special virtues, but the greatest Western minds would prob- 
ably join with Bacon, who declared that "Histories make 
men wise." 

10 



MAIN CURRENTS 

One lesson of history is expressed in the saying that you 
may drive out history with a pitchfork but it always comes 
back. In England, Cromwell and the army sought to make a 
drastic break with the past by scrapping the time-honored 
monarchical form of government. With the death of Crom- 
well traditional forms came sweeping back and the monarchy 
was restored. Sorel, in his great work UEurofe et la Revolu- 
tion Frangaisej traces the continuity of French policy during 
the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods with that of the 
Ancien Regime. Today in the Soviet Union the absence of 
political freedom, the ever-present secret police, and the un- 
questioning acceptance of an authoritarian regime are re- 
minders of Tsarist Russia. The sharp break between past and 
future foreseen by some liberal historians can hardly be sup- 
ported by the record. Listen to these words : "It is probable . . . 
that the resumed march of Russia towards her age-long objec- 
tives, towards an Atlantic port, in the Baltic and the Balkans, 
towards a Mediterranean outlet, in the Middle and Far East, 
will occupy important pages in what is to come of twentieth 
century history."* They were written by a British historian in 
1944. Precisely a decade before the Polish and Hungarian 
revolutions of 1956, George F. Kennan predicted uprisings 
in the Soviet empire in about ten years. The grounds for his 
prediction were a knowledge of Russian history and of the 
anatomy of totalitarian regimes. 

The second quality worth mentioning in a survey of phi- 
losophers and statesmen who speak with a singular timeless- 
ness is the assumption by most of them that an understanding 
of political phenomena, whe ther international or domestic, is 
inseparable from a clear picture of human nature. This view, 
itmust be saidT'runs'counterTo mu^h^F present-day thought. 
Social scientists are disposed to argue that man is a bundle of 
contradictory impulses and that his behavior must be tested 

* A. L. Rowse, The Use of History (London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 
194.6), pp. 26-27. 

II 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

and analyzed experimentally before we can say anything at 
all. Political institutions and procedures preoccupy the scholar 
as more manageable units of study. Yet the question with 
which Reinhold Niebuhr began the Gifford Lectures in the 
spring of 1939 returns to haunt us: "Man has always been his 
most vexing problem. How shall he think of himself? "° This 
is the starting point for all serious philosophers, whatever the 
answer they give. Moreover, even philosophers who pride 
themselves on freedom from any controlling view of man 
more often than not embrace implicit assumptions that shape 
their conclusions. Alexander Hamilton, in seeking the cause of 
conflict among states, concluded: "To presume a want of 
motives for such contests would be to forget that men are 
ambitious, vindictive and rapacious."® Other philosophers, who 
assume that men are by nature cooperative and virtuous, view 
the international system as cast in another mold. Therefore, 
writers who claim to be entirely free from presuppositions 
about man carry a heavier baggage of assumptions than they 
know J and the gravest problems arise from theories of the 
world founded upon a conception of man that is concealed 
and for this reason never examined. 

A third condition of the theories of the prophetic political 
philosophers derives from their attitude toward human prog- 
ress. One view is the Enlightenment conception, that man's 
history is essentially an upward spiral, with each generation 
becoming wiser, better, and more prosperous than the last. 
Another view is espoused by millennial Christians and liberals 
or Marxist secularists alike j it is an article of faith for them 
all that man is corrupted and depraved but that he awaits one 
decisive event which will bring "a new heaven and a new 
earth." In the past men have been selfish, grasping, and evilj 

' Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Inter- 
pretation^ Vol. I (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1945), p. i. 

® Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist., 
ed. Max BelofE (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1948), p. 20. 

12 



MAIN CURRENTS 

with one blinding act they will be transfigured from mortal 
men to members of a classless society — progress indeed! 

But more prevalent by far is the theory of progress that 
sees man transforming himself through newer, more rational 
institutions. In Essays on the Social Gosfel^ Adolf Harnack 
declares: "Retrogression is no longer possible for us; and 
shame upon those who desire it.'" This is probably less perni- 
cious than other determinist creeds. Yet in the end it is equally 
mischievous because it suggests that progress is waiting at the 
other end of a charter, a constitution, or a court judgment. 
The United Nations was presented by some of its American 
champions as an organization that would do away with alli- 
ances, balance of power, and bitter rivalries among states — in 
other words, this novel institution would overnight create a 
new form of international behavior. The world would be done 
with blocs, security guarantees, and regional arrangements 
except as they might spring from the new international 
organization. How prophetic were these disciples of progress? 
Newspaper dispatches and headlines give the answer, NATO, 
SEATO, the Eisenhower Doctrine, the Baghdad Pact, the 
Warsaw Pact, and the bilateral security arrangements between 
the United States and more than forty countries. 

One must hasten to add that a rejection of these extravagant 
views of progress does not imply a denial of progress as such. 
It is progress as perfectibility that is questioned. History is 
the record of significant human advances, but of advances 
marred by retreat and retrogression. More often than not, 
progress is the half-step, the partial advance which is accepted 
when the ultimate goal is beyond reach. This truth is one 
that wise men perceive, and in perceiving make their contribu- 
tion to progress. 

Finally, the enduring philosophies of international politics 
possess a viable, workable concept of politics. It is politics that 

'' Adolf Harnack and Wilhelm Herrmann, Essays on the Social Gospel 
(New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1907), p. 7. 

13 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

presents the statesman with his severest test on the interna- 
tional scene J it is politics that demands meaningful analysis 
and generalization. Yet it is politics, on the international no 
less than on the national scene, that suffers the worst calum- 
nies, contempt, and abuse. Many of our leaders want not so 
much to understand politics as to eliminate it. An American 
President proclaims that politics is one thing he doesn't care 
much about J others contrast the high principles of the states- 
man with the low tactics of the politician. Professor Carl 
Becker pointed out that "the term politics has taken on a cer- 
tain unsavory meaning, as when we say 'playing politics' or 
'it's only politics.' In international relations playing politics, 
otherwise known as 'the diplomatic game,' has recently become 
a little more unsavory or even sinister, by being described 
as 'power politics.' "® 

If politics is anything, however, it is compromise, the ad- 
justment of divergent interests, and the reconciliation of rival 
moral claims. Politics calls for the highest moral stamina if 
men are to stand on the uncertain terrain where to act may be 
to act unjustly, where there are few if any absolutes, and 
where success, for better or for worse, is the most common 
criterion. Henry Ward Beecher observed that not that which 
men do worthily but that which they do successfully is what 
history makes haste to record. Success in politics, just as success 
in business, is contingent on an understanding of its principles 
or "laws." This understanding has been achieved by men 
whose predictions ring truej lack of understanding is the cause 
of the failure of those whose words are foolishness today. 

I. THE PHILOSOPHERS 

If it is true that the words of some academic scribbler lie 
behind most policies that are eventually hammered out in the 
public forum, we need make no apology for studying the ap- 

8 Carl L. Becker, Hoiu Neiv Will the Better World Be? (New York: 
Alfred A. Knopf, 1944), p. 76. 

14 



MAIN CURRENTS 

proach of the philosophers. Scholars are often accused of living 
in ivory towers and of divorcing themselves from the realities 
around them. Bacon said in his On the Advancement of 
Learning: "Philosophers make imaginary laws for imaginary 
commonwealths, and their discourses are as the stars which 
give little light because they are so high." However, the 
academician in American universities and colleges has fre- 
quently proved himself capable of developing sound ap- 
proaches to a greater degree than the man of affairs. Professor 
Bernard Brodie has written: "We political scientists have 
learned a great deal these past fifteen or twenty years . . . 
Hitler and the war he brought us were a great educating 
influence on the subjects of politics and the use of power." 

The intellectual journey of twentieth-century American 
scholars and philosophers must be plotted along four rela- 
tively distinct lines. During one phase, prior to and through 
World War I, diplomatic historians enjoyed what amounted 
to a virtual monopoly. What most distinguished this period 
was a high level of historical accuracy and faithful attention 
to the canons of historiography. Historians conceived as their 
first duty the forswearing of every temptation to generalize 
in sweeping and unqualified terms about their observations. 
Their sole aim was to record a story in all its fullness and 
essential simplicity. The_price_paid for this rigorous , object ive, 
and non-generalized approach was^^e_^bsen£e^jf_ariything 
corresponding to sl theory of international relations. More- 
over, the criticism was voiced that this approach provided 
public opinion and the general citizenry with no guideposts 
for understanding and action. 

In consequence, during the truce between the two wars 
there grew up an overriding concern to discover the means 
for studying the immediate present. In place of the detached 
and highly specialized techniques of diplomatic history, an 
approach that has been called the current-even ts^point of vi ew 
^emerged. The "bible" for the studjroFmternational relations 

15 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

became The New York Times j and the function of the teacher 
became that of interpreting and explaining the immediate 
significance of current events. This approach occasioned a 
flurry of popular interest which, however, proved premature, 
resting as it did on weak and unstable foundations. This ver- 
sion of scholarship cast the teacher in the role of a pundit, 
and made of specialists little more than advocates and special 
pleaders. As a result, the areas that might have been exploited 
from the earlier study of diplomatic history were left largely 
untouched, and the study of the present was pursued without 
any of the ordering principles that might have been drawn 
from past experience. Each scholar became a spokesman for 
his own brand of international legislation or reform. Some 
discussed, off the cuff, free trade versus protectionism j others, 
international monetary reform j still others, new ways and 
means of transforming international organization. But none 
attempted to relate postwar political problems with issues of 
an earlier day. To have done this would have been antiquarian 
and would have proved that the scholar was at odds with his 
times. 

Even scholarly leaders like President Woodrow Wilson 
inveighed against using studies of the Congress of Vienna as 
background for the Paris Peace Conference, a proposal made 
by the British. The light that Talleyrand or Metternich might 
have thrown on foreign policy was ruled out of order.rrhe 
approach became little more than a day-by-day exercise in 
proposing and disposing of each major or minor world prob- 
lem as it presented itself.'^^urthermore, the absence of a firm 
methodological foundatioft for studying these events led to a 
grand and extravagant conception of what international studies 
should encompass. Anything foreign was relevant j everything, 
from the anthropology of primitive tribes to the phenomenon 
of xenophobia, was equally important. In these terms an in- 
formed discussion of the Olympic Games was as appropriate 
as one on the latest move in German diplomacy. However 

16 



MAIN CURRENTS 

engaging this concept was in theory and however appropriate 
for group discussion, it could scarcely lead to any carefully 
conceived approach to the relevant problems upon which war 
and peace might hinge. Someone has said that this was an era 
of letters to Congressmen, to editors, and to interest groups, 
without more than a line or two of scholarly monographs. 
The idea that scholars and their public could influence foreign 
policy was spawned during this period, and strengthened by 
the tendencies inherent in a third and overlapping phase of 
international studies. 

Throughout these years, if any dominant philosophy was 
giving content to the current events approach, and direction 
and purpose to research, it was that of international law and 
organiza tion. Inaugurated shortly after World War I, this 
approach set two goals for its disciples. Students were to dis- 
cover the ends and objectives toward which international 
society should tend, and then labor faithfully to attain them. 
Not without reason the purpose of the first chair in interna- 
tional politics at the University of Wales was defined as "the 
study of those related problems of law and ... of ethics which 
were raised by the projects of a League of Nations." Through 
indoctrination of ideas and information regarding the League, 
international studies were to perform an educational and trans- 
forming function. Critics were to say of this mode of thinking 
that in no other field had scholars become captive to such a 
degree of emotions and wishful thinking. 

The success and failures of this period in international 
relations resulted essentially from three of its characteristics. 
First, the era was dominated by a spirit of boundless optimism. 
Second, the research and academic interests as well as the 
special qualification of scholars lay overwhelniingly in inter- 
,,^tional law and organizatjpji. Third, a tendency was every- 
where apparent to draw moral judgments in favor of every 
international venture at the expense of any national experience. 

The spirit of optimism and the conception of progress 

17 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

undoubtedly derived from the philosophy of the Enlighten- 
ment and from its stepchild, the peace movement of the 
nineteenth century. Powerful industrial figures like Mr. Ginn, 
the publisher, and Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, 
approached international problems with a confidence born of 
their breathtaking successes in private enterprise. The Car- 
negie Endowment in its prescription for abolishing "the 
foulest blot on our civilization" hinted that war was only one 
in a series of problems which American ingenuity would soon 
efface. Mr. Carnegie himself instructed the Trustees of the 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: "When . . . 
war is discarded as disgraceful to civilized man, the Trustees 
will please then consider what is the next most degrading evil 
or evils whose banishment . . . would most advance the prog- 
ress, elevation and happiness of man. . . ." 

The heavy concentration of scholarship and scholars on 
international law and organization can readily be documented. 
Of the twenty-four scholars who held the rank of professor 
of international relations by 1930, eighteen devoted them- 
selves exclusively to this specialization. Throughout this 
period a tendency persisted to equate peace with government, 
and war with power politics and the balance of power. When 
international politics and its enduring practices and techniques 
was studied at all, it was by the diplomatic historian within the 
limits of his interests and outlook. The experiences of the nine- 
teenth century in easing international tensions were considered 
inappropriate subjects for serious inquiry. Instead, technical 
and procedural problems, organizational reforms, and im- 
provements of international government preoccupied almost 
every scholar. 

Finally, an implicit if unstated assumption underlay the 
selection of almost every subject of inquiry: everything inter- 
national was good, and everything national was bad. Hence 
selected for study were such good and constructive interna- 
tional experiments as the League of Nations, and such dubious 

18 



MAIN CURRENTS 

national policies as imperialism and integral nationalism. 
Passed over for study was the "bad," or at least morally 
ambiguous, internationalism of the Third International and 
the "good" quest for a legitimate national security. Indeed 
one of the illnesses from which the study of international 
relations still suffers is the cult of internationalism, with its 
own moral evaluations arrived at through a simple dichotomy 
of good internationalism and bad nationalism. This is ironic 
indeed when one reflects that nationalism has become a prin- 
cipal ally of the West in the strivings of Soviet satellites to be 
more than puppets in a scheme for world domination or of the 
new nations to carve out independent destinies free of commu- 
nist control. 

Following World War II, a tendency that began in the 
years immediately before the war came to the forefront. The 
study of international politics replaced the study of interna- 
tional organization as the central point of reference in inter- 
national relations. An approach was made to recurrent world 
problems not with a view to praise or condemn but to under- 
stand them. In a survey published in 1947 for the Council of 
International Relations, President Grayson Kirk of Columbia 
University, then Professor of International Relations, found 
that international politics had become the basic introductory 
field of study almost everywhere throughout the country. In 
place of examining the structure and organization of interna- 
tional society, scholars were turning to the underlying forces 
and trends that mold and shape the behavior of nation states. 

The aim was to study international politics in the same way 
that domestic politics had been studied for almost a generation. 
Much as studies of American government and politics had 
moved from examination of the Constitution and basic statutes 
to practical politics and pressure groups, so international 
studies became concerned with the underlying tendencies in 
the foreign policies of separate nation states and the forms 
and techniques through which the various national policies of 

19 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

States could be compromised and adjusted on the international 
plane. Instead of beginning with international society, the new 
line of inquiry emphasized the study of national goals and 
objectives as a logical point of departure. Just as no one would 
imagine for one moment that policy on the domestic scene is 
a given quantity but must be sought in the adjustment of rival 
claims of political parties and pressure groups, so international 
policy, say within the United Nations, must be studied as the 
result of the pressures and claims of nations on the interna- 
tional scene. When taken from this point of view, the practices 
and policies of international organization are no longer ab- 
stract considerations. Instead they are conceived within the 
framework of the aims and purposes of nations, their points 
of conflict, and their areas of compatibility and incompatibility. 
In this way, the historic policies of England, the United States, 
or the Soviet Union become objects of greater interest than 
isolated studies of international government divorced from 
international politics as such. International organization finds 
its proper place when it is approached as a forum within which 
national rivalries are adjusted through partly novel and 
partly historic political processes. 

What this has done in practice has been to tie the study of 
international relations to political science. Without this core 
international relations had tended to ride off in all directions j 
with it came for the first time a chance of discovering relevant 
and general principles by which citizens and statesmen might 
be guided. Political science assumes that rivalry among indi- 
viduals and groups for political power and the ways power 
and authority are exercised is a subject for study j in the same 
way international politics assumes that the struggle for influ- 
ence and power can be examined systematically. 

International politics has become the focal point of present- 
day research and teaching partly because of the march of 
events in the 1930's. It was ushered in largely because of the 
failure of earlier viewpoints to conform even accidentally with 

20 



MAIN CURRENTS 

the facts of the interwar period. The crises that followed in 
rapid succession from Mukden Bridge in 1931 to the present 
found both students and teachers emotionally and intellec- 
tually unprepared. The widespread belief that the new formal 
institutions would quickly modify international conduct bore 
little resemblance to actual events. The relations of civilized 
nations which were to have been modified by the League of 
Nations progressively deteriorated as the European balance of 
power was threatened by Germany and Italy. It was no minor 
constitutional defect of the League but rather the political 
conditions under which it operated that was the primary cause 
of its breakdown. Only by a realistic assessment of interna- 
tional phenomena could the League's decline and fall have 
been anticipated. The clue to the basic point of departure in 
international politics as distinguished from international or- 
ganization may be found in the way the United Nations is 
evaluated. Formerly the League had been at the center of the 
majority of the studies j now world politics is the focal point of 
all studies, including those dealing with the functions of the 
United Nations. The rivalries occasioning international ten- 
sions are now generally assumed at a critical point to be politi- 
cal in character. As a result the political scientist has moved to 
the center of international studies. The concern of international 
politics today is threefold — with the forces and influences 
which bear on the conduct of foreign policy everywhere, with 
the techniques and machinery used to execute foreign policy, 
and with the novel institutions and traditional practices used 
to adjust conflicts among nations. Fundamental and persistent 
forces of world politics, such as nationalism, imperialism, and 
the balance of power, have belatedly become proper subjects 
for study, and the basic drives underlying foreign policies of 
states, such as the search for security and power, are the ele- 
ments of this new approach. If one is asked for a short defini- 
tion of international politics it may be called the study of 

21 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

rivalry among nations and the conditions and institutions 
which ameliorate or exacerbate these relationships. 

This approach to international relations is not, of course, 
the product of a single mind nor even of a single school 
comparable to, for example, the Vienna School in psychoana- 
lytic theory. No Freud stands at the center, with critics and 
interpreters, glossators, and revisionists ranged around him. 
Professional journals like The American Political Science Re- 
view y World Politics J and The Review of Politics have given 
opportunities to emerging specialists, but the best writings are 
rather widely scattered in both political and religious, popular 
and scholarly periodicals. Admittedly it is hazardous to claim 
special credit for certain scholars to the exclusion of others 
who may be equally creative and thoughtful. However, it 
must nevertheless be said that the decisive role, while not 
perhaps as significant as that of Keynes in economics or Clause- 
witz in military strategy, has unquestionably been played by 
a few men. Their backgrounds are surprisingly diverse. One is 
a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhrj another an English historian, 
E. H. Carrj the third, a man who worked in the shadowy 
area where considerations of geography and foreign policy 
collide, Nicholas J. Spykmanj and the last a political theorist, 
Hans J. Morgenthau. The one tie that binds this group to- 
gether is their concern with the comprehensive study of theory 
and practice in international politics. Other scholars, to be sure, 
have concerned themselves with methodology or concrete 
problems in the field. A few extraordinarily able columnists 
and practitioners, about whom we shall have more to say, 
have grappled with fundamental issues. However, the little 
group we have singled out is distinguished by its attention to 
the over-all problem of working out a general framework for 
approaching contemporary problems. Each has rejected the 
seductive comforts and temptations of scholarship divorced 
from the harsh and stubborn problems confronting policy- 
makers. For example it is possible to say what these men be- 

22 



MAIN CURRENTS 

lieve or have believed about the cold war, Soviet objectives, 
or international organization. Surprisingly, many of their 
contemporaries are curiously silent on present-day problems j 
this is perhaps no more than an unconscious reaction to the 
heavier emphasis of an earlier day on current aflFairs, although 
it may also result because abstract methodology is less contro- 
versial in this age of conformity. 

The diplomatist and historian George F. Kennan has called 
Reinhold Niebuhr "the father of all of us." The writings of 
this remarkable theologian over a period of more than forty 
years come to more than 1,500 articles and book reviews and 
sixteen major volumes. In a field he calls his avocation a tor- 
rent of comment has issued forth on contemporary social and 
political problems. The political philosopher John H. Hal- 
lowell of Duke University best captures the essential quality 
of Niebuhr's contribution in the following words: "Dr. Nie- 
buhr's analyses make the impact they do upon modern minds 
because they 'ring true.' . . . We are attracted to his analysis 
because it confirms what history and our personal experience 
confirms. He makes explicit what we have been unable before 
to articulate but what we have felt to be true." The gradual 
unfolding of his ideas, Niebuhr tells us, came not so much 
through study as through the pressure of world events. As 
the scientist's hypotheses are adjusted to experimental find- 
ings, Niebuhr's concepts and ideas have kept pace with the 
lessons of current history. Moral Man and Immoral Society ^ 
written in the early thirties, represented a breaking through 
of fact and experience which forced him to abandon Christian 
absolutism. He tells us that before World War I he was "a 
young man trying to be an optimist without falling into senti- 
mentality." When the war ended and the full tragedy had 
been revealed he "had become a realist trying to save himself 
from cynicism." Above and beyond his engaging ability to 
revise his point of view in the face of events, he very early 
perceived the issue between the philosophies of realism and 

23 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

idealism as well as the perils and excesses inherent in the two 
points of view. 

Q'erhaps Niebuhr's chief contribution to the substance of 
international politics can be found in his bold and fearless 
attacks on the most widely held illusions, such as the miscon- 
ception that institutions in and of themselves would reshape 
international societyl In the 1937 Report of the Advisory 
Committee on International Relations of the Social Science 
Research Council, Professor James Shotwell spoke of "new 
forms arising which . . . will modify the entire relationship of 
civilized nation." Others saw the millennium in the signing in 
1928 of the Pact of Paris renouncing war. Even though 
Niebuhr's idealism was at its high point between 1928 and 
1935, when the beginning of the Ethiopian War initiated its 
rapid decline, he had already pointed out in July 1929, when 
the Pact of Paris became effective, that two of its signatories 
were violating its principles. China had seized the Chinese 
Eastern Railway and thus precipitated an attack by Soviet 
forces. The confounding of proclamations with policies, of 
procedures with politics, of form with function, and of prom- 
ises with practice are errors Niebuhr has consistently struggled 
to set right. 

He early declared war on the jnost.i_ateful illusion of all, 
the lib eral view of _power, according to which power was an 
archaism, the last remnant of the barbaric, preindustrial, 
feudal age. Even an intellect as supremely endowed as Presi- 
dent Woodrow Wilson looked to the disappearance of power 
from the international stage. Not so Professor Niebuhr, who 
set himself to observe as the datum of politics the fact of 
power and conflict, its sources and modes of expression, and 
the methods by which they might be kept consistent with the 
requirements of order. He found in the fateful concession 
that ethics makes to politics that coercion is a necessary instru- 
ment of social cohesion, whether it be coercion in Gandhi's 
protests of nonviolence in his march to the sea (to distill salt 

24 



MAIN CURRENTS 

from the ocean in opposition to the injustices of the salt tax) 
or coercion in the violence of management and labor at war in 
the first decades of this century. Moreover he found that 
power is never checked merely by the voluntary action of those 
possessing it, but only by raising a countervailing power 
against it. The realm of politics is the twilight zone where 
ethics and power meet, and it is in this troubled zone that 
Niebuhr has made his deepest thrust. No one can write on 
these problems without acknowledging an immense debt to 
this great mind. It happens that the most baffling issues he 
and his successors confront arise in international politics. 

As a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr has taken the moral 
problem as his major point of focus. As an historian and 
political scientist, E. H. Carr has chosen the analysis of for- 
eign policy and national purposes. Although an English 
scholar, his influence has been greatest on American thought. 
Before World War II, Carr was lamenting the fact that no 
other field of knowledge was more encumbered by prejudice, 
half-truth, and ignorance. In 1939, in the preface to the 
Ambassadors at Large Series he edited, he noted: "In inter- 
national politics, few of us have got beyond the stage of the 
small child which says, *You are naughty,' to anyone who does 
something it doesn't likej for the temptation to impute moral 
turpitude to policies which do not suit our interests is almost 
irresistible.'"' One cure for this simple, black-and-white view 
is a critical examination of the realities of a nation's foreign 
policy, a task Carr set for himself in his monumental History 
of the Bolshevik Revolution, and in smaller works like The 
Soviet Imfact on the Western World. Another antidote is an 
analysis and exposure of the faults of contemporary political 
thought as applied to foreign relations. Carr's The Twenty 
Years' Crisis, completed in the summer of 1939 and dedicated 
"to the makers of the coming peace," was written "with the 

^ Wladmir d'Ormesson, France {^Ambassadors at Large Series, ed. E. H. 
Carr; London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1939), p. iv. 

25 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

deliberate aim of counteracting the glaring and dangerous 
defect of nearly all thinking, both academic and popular, 
about international politics in English-speaking countries from 
1 9 19 to 1939 — the almost total neglect of the factor of 
power.'"" In casting about for the causes of this neglect, Carr 
found serious thought on international politics in its infancy. 

Until 1 9 14 the conduct of international relations was the 
business of the professionals, and few people gave it heed. 
This state of affairs ended with World War I, when a power- 
ful campaign was initiated to popularize international politics 
and thereby rid the world of strife. War was attributed to the 
wickedness of governments and, more specifically, to the 
nefarious role of secret treaties. This gave the impulse to an 
attack on war and hence to the organized study of interna- 
tional affairs. 

It is often forgotten that in any field a felt need, a burning 
human goal, or a social purpose is the first step along the 
pathway to science. In the physical sciences the demands for 
better health led to the creation of medical science just as the 
need for roads and bridges brought about the science of engi- 
neering. More than one writer has argued that a social or 
technical need is a greater spur to the progress of mankind 
than are ten universities. Research for the sake of amassing 
data or thinking for thinking's sake is more often barren than 
not. The observer confronted by a basic problem is challenged 
to order his questions and direct his answers to some crucial 
point. According to the German philosopher Kant, reason 
approaches nature "not in the character of a pupil, who listens 
to all that his master chooses to tell him, but in that of a 
judge, who compels the witness to reply to those questions 
which he himself thinks fit to propose." International rela- 
tions illustrates the rule rather than the exception for, as with 
all sciences during the interwar period, it passed through a 

i°E. H. Carr, The Tweniy Years' Crisis (London: Macmillan Co., 
1949), p. vii. 

26 



MAIN CURRENTS 

Utopian stage "in which the element of wish or purpose [was] 
. . . overwhelmingly strong, and the inclination to analyze 
facts and means weak or nonexistent."" 

However, this link between purpose and analysis, which is 
inevitable in all of science, takes on a unique character in 
the social realm. The laboratory scientist may have the 
same emotions toward the eradication of cancer as the po- 
litical scientist toward the elimination of war. But for the 
laboratory scientist the emotions are strictly irrelevant to and 
separable from the investigation, since in the physical world 
the facts exist independently of what anyone may think about 
them. For the social investigator, however, the facts may be 
changed by the desire that they be changed, for their existence 
is never wholly independent of his attitude or of the attitudes 
of those he seeks to influence. The purpose of the social 
observer is in itself one of the very facts, inasmuch as every 
political or social judgment modifies or rearranges the facts 
on which that judgment is based. The aim of present-day 
observers of capitalism — including many socialists — is the 
preservation and defense of capitalism. While Marx claimed 
he was scientific, his approach to the analysis of capitalism was 
inseparably joined to and interrelated with his goal of de- 
stroying capitalism. The laboratory scientist may dedicate 
himself to eliminating cancer, but this does not alter the facts 
of his experiment. The purpose and position of the social ob- 
server inevitably shape and affect his research. The observer 
of capitalism must have some kind of moral and intellectual 
position concerning his subject, and it is this position which 
intermingles with his analysis and indeed gives it meaning 
and purpose. 

The close connection between purpose and analysis in social 
relations is not the end of the story. While those who bring 
about an awareness of a vital social need and of the necessity 
for solving a problem make a valuable contribution, rarely 

^"■Ibid., p. 5. 

27 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

does the solution they propound have any connection with the 
underlying sources of the problem. They are like the Utopian 
socialists whom Engels criticized for believing that "socialism 
is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and 
needs only be discovered in order to conquer all the world in 
virtue of its own power." 

The passionate desire to eliminate war determined the 
initial direction of international studies, and this desire so 
overshadowed all else that any analysis or criticism of the 
means proposed to achieve it was branded mischievous or 
destructive or worse. When President Wilson was on his way 
to the Paris Peace Conference, he was asked by some of his 
advisers whether he felt the design for a League of Nations 
would work. He replied: "If it won't work, it must be made 
to work." Carr has noted: "The advocate of a scheme for an 
international police force or for 'collective security,' or for 
some other project for an international order, generally re- 
plied to the critic not by an argument designed to show how 
and why he thought his plan will work, but either by a state- 
ment that it must be made to work because the consequences of 
its failure to work would be so disastrous, or by a demand for 
some alternative nostrum."^^ Carr's principal contribution has 
been his argument that this initial stage of wishful thinking 
must be succeeded by one of ruthless analysis in which existing 
forces and tendencies are taken into account and purpose 
brought into line with reality. I would agree with some of 
Carr's critics that he is sometimes blind to the opposite truth 
that there are occasions where reality must be brought into 
line with purpose. 

Nicholas J. Spykman, late Professor of International Rela- 
tions at Yale University, did as much as any scholar of his 
generation to ground international thought in political re- 
alities. He called his approach geopolitics, and wrote: "The 
fact that certain writers have distorted the meaning of the 

12 Ibid., p. 8. 

28 



MAIN CURRENTS 

term geopolitics is no valid reason for condemning its method 
and material. It is, actually, an appropriate name for a type of 
analysis and a body of data which are indispensable to the 
process of reaching intelligent decisions on certain aspects of 
foreign policy."^^ He was constrained to dissociate himself 
from Haushofer and his adherents since the advocacy of policy 
is not a scientific endeavor, and it was on this point that the 
German school was led astray. 

Spykman looked to geography as the prime conditioning 
factor in foreign policy, but warned that not everything from 
the fourth symphony to the fourth dimension could be ex- 
plained in geographic terms. The position a state occupied in 
the world and its relationship to other centers of power de- 
fined its problem of security, and to assure its position a na- 
tion had to make "the preservation and improvement of . . . 
[its] power position a primary objective. . . ." For his candor 
Spykman was attacked as having an "excess of cynicism" and 
an obsession with Realpolitik. He replied: ". . . power has a 
bad name and the use of power is often condemned . . ." and 
added, ". . . there is a tendency, especially among certain 
liberals and many who call themselves idealists, to believe that 
the subject of power in the international world should not be 
spoken of except in terms of moral disapproval." However, 
he concluded: "Political ideals and visions unsupported by 
force appear to have little survival value."^* 

Spykman's major work was Americans Strategy in World 
Politics J published in 1942. Perhaps nowhere in the literature 
of international politics are the arguments about isolationism 
and internationalism traced more systematically. Spykman 
perceived that the ingredients of these two policies were more 
profound and persistent than had been generally assumed, 
especially by those who maintained that the American people 

^^ Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geografhy of the Peace, ed. Helen R. 
Nicholl (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1944), p. 7. 
1* Ibid., p. 3. 

29 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

could rather easily be educated to an internationalist point of 
view. For example, he showed that isolationism had both 
emotional as well as strategic aspects. Emotionally, it appealed 
to people and their families who as immigrants had turned 
their backs on Europe and wanted to forget the Old World. 
Now that the wars and conflicts of the rest of the world had 
reached their new homeland they sought refuge in the com- 
forting doctrine that they need not bother about Europe. They 
were also, moreover, the inheritors of the course that for 
nearly two centuries had been asserted as the one viable 
American foreign policy. When in the early part of the nine- 
teenth century England asked the New World to intervene to 
redress the balance of power in Europe, again when America 
was asked to participate in the two Moroccan and in the 
Berlin Conferences, and once more during the debate over the 
League of Nations, the controversy was whether the order 
and equilibrium of Europe and Asia constituted a vital Ameri- 
can interest. Isolationists were prepared to expand their con- 
cept of an adequate zone of defense from the national domain 
to the Caribbean littoral or even to the whole Western Hemi- 
sphere. But even today, as reflected in certain attitudes to the 
European crisis, the vestigial remains of the psychology of 
Fortress America linger on. 

The virtue and the balance of Spykman's approach resides 
in his understanding that the intellectual foundations on which 
a large bloc of internationalist thought was based were no 
more adequate than was isolationist thought. He argued that 
in successive crises the staunchest internationalists "have been 
those who were inspired by idealistic considerations. Some 
asked participation [in successive world crises] because they 
were pro-British ; others because they believed that, in a period 
of ideological warfare, we had a moral obligation to support 
the people whose social and political structure most closely 
resembled our own.'"^ But few made explicit the point that 

1^ Nicholas J. Spykman, America's Strategy in World Politics (New 
York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 194.2), pp. 3-4. 

30 



MAIN CURRENTS 

the first line of defense for the United States lies in preserving 
a balance of power in Europe and Asia, albeit our second line 
falls in the Western Hemisphere. 

Spykman moved with rapier thrusts against a whole host of 
popular doctrines. In 1942 he maintained: "Basically, the new 
order will not differ from the old, and international society 
will continue to operate with the same fundamental power 
patterns. It will be a world of power politics." To a nation 
seeking escape from the anguish of foreign policy, he gave this 
warning: "An equilibrium of forces inherently unstable, al- 
ways shifting, always changing, is certainly not an ideal power 
pattern for international society. But while we can deplore its 
shortcomings, we shall do well to remember that it is an indis- 
pensable element for an international order based on inde- 
pendent states." In discussing collective security, where 
normally points like the definition of aggression, a world 
police force, and perhaps world government are touched, he 
stated a more fundamental principle, that "whenever . . . 
pressures become unequal, boundaries will move. The problem 
of collective security is the problem of equalizing these pres- 
sures} and as long as that problem remains unsolved, the 
phenomenon of expansion as such will continue to appear." 
In the face of all the talk of a brave new world, he warned: 
"History testifies to the constant reappearance of these ex- 
pansion forms and the ever-recurring conflict patterns that 
result, and there seems to be no reason to assume or expect 
that these behavior patterns of states will suddenly change or 
disappear." This hardly meant, however, that American for- 
eign policy should be enslaved by the past. "Not conformity 
with the past but workability in the present is the criterion of 
a sound policy. Not specially selected instances in the history 
of the United States, but the general experience of states 
should be made the guide for a program of action."^" 

All this is worth mentioning for at least two reasons. First, 
the new approach to international relations, based on the 

" Ibid., p. 7. 

31 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

general experiences of states, is today rather widely accepted 
in the study of international politics. More important, it ap- 
pears that it was the foundations on which Spykman's thought 
was based that allowed him to anticipate the future. For 
example, in the era of good feeling toward the Russians, he 
wrote: "A Russian state from the Urals to the North Sea 
can be no great improvement over a German state from the 
North Sea to the Urals." Even more daring, perhaps, was his 
statement during the Second World War: "Twice in one 
generation we have come to the aid of Great Britain in order 
that the small offshore island might not have to face a single 
gigantic state in control of the opposite coast of the mainland. 
If the balance of power in the Far East is to be preserved in 
the future . , . the United States will have to adopt a similar 
protective policy toward Japan." During an era of friendly 
Sino-American relations, he saw in a modern, vitalized, and 
militarized China of 450 million people "a threat, not only 
to Japan, but also to the position of the Western Powers. . . ." 
Nor to those who desired the total destruction of German 
power — a desire we have come to regret — did he give any 
comfort. In a statement labeled by one critic the most astonish- 
ing conclusion that could be imagined, Spykman insisted: 
"The present war effort is undoubtedly directed against the 
destruction of Hitler and the National Socialist Party, but 
this does not necessarily imply that it is directed at the destruc- 
tion of Germany as a military power."^^ He places these 
predictions in a kind of rational context by adding that the 
charm of power politics is that one never need grow weary of 
one's friends. Thus there is in Spykman at least a touch of that 
quality of political prophecy associated with others in Western 
civilization who saw the future in the light of a more general 
conception of man and politics. 

Finally, we shall consider the fourth scholar who, in the 
broadest intellectual sense, helped to lay the foundation for 

^'' Ibid., p. 460. 

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MAIN CURRENTS 

international politics — Hans J. Morgenthau, Director of the 
Center for the Study of American Foreign Policy at the Uni- 
versity of Chicago. Because he belongs to a later generation 
than the others mentioned, his contribution is more difficult to 
assess J we are still too close to his work to do it justice. Few, 
if any, of his contemporaries have elaborated their philoso- 
phies with the same force, directness, and clarity. Morgenthau 
is keenly aware of the moral dilemma facing the student of 
social affairs — who at the same time stands in judgment and 
is a part of the social scene. In facing this dilemma he has 
displayed unrivalled moral courage. He has eschewed the 
popular trend, the simple solution, the painless banality. To 
quote Dean McGeorge Bundy of Harvard, Morgenthau "has 
taken on all comers" in a running debate on the nature of man 
and politics and the principles of foreign policy. By virtue of 
the courage and clarity that distinguished his work, those 
contesting his views have been enabled to recognize the points 
at which they chose to take issue with him. Indeed in recent 
years much of the literature of international politics is a dia- 
logue, explicit or not, between "Morgenthau and his critics" — 
the title of a panel discussion at the 1955 annual meeting of 
the American Political Science Association. 

It may be useful to review cursorily the broad outlines of 
his philosophy. The leading constitutional document first 
stating his philosophy is Scientific Man versus Power Politics 
(1946). Other studies have been written on the theme "science 
cannot save us," but few if any have grappled so successfully 
with this important problem of man's social existence. On the 
one hand, Morgenthau contests the prevailing view that 
political behavior can be studied by simply transferring the 
methods used in natural science. He reexamines the scientific 
method and shows that the conception of science which social 
science seeks to imitate is one that present-day scientists them- 
selves reject. Modern science, as reflected in men like Edding- 

33 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

ton and Jeans, is a science of indeterminism that takes into 
account the contingencies and accidents of the natural world. 
Therefore, to believe that a rational and predictable world 
can readily be imposed on the uncertainties of politics is as 
questionable in the social realm as the parallel premise would 
be in the physical. 

On the one hand, Morgenthau postulates a sociology of 
politics in which moral absolutes and sweeping solutions are 
challenged and dismissed. Men in politics seek power and they 
come into conflict with others engaged in the same quest. They 
use moral justifications to cover their aspirations and thus 
heighten and intensify the struggle. On the domestic or na- 
tional level, conflicts are kept within bounds by constitutional 
institutions and generally accepted rules of the gamej there 
is a minimum consensus on the goals that can appropriately 
be pursued, and those thwarted today have some expectation 
of success tomorrow. International society is marked by far 
more uncertainty, disorder, and unrestrained conflict. In the 
days before World War II, nations like Czechoslovakia or 
Ethiopia or France had little assurance that their interests 
would be safeguarded and preserved. Countries like Egypt 
and Israel and even Britain and France face the same problem 
today. Consequently, the brutalities and rivalries of egotistic 
nations, selfish because their survival is at stake, confound the 
rationalists and reformers striving to do away with power 
rivalries among states through universal free trade, interna- 
tional sanctions, and world disarmament. 

If Scientific Man provided a blueprint for the building of a 
systematic theory of world politics, then Politics among Na- 
tions (1948) gave us the completed edifice. Politics among 
Nations was the product of twenty years of reflection and 
study i in the words of the author, it launched a frontal attack 
"on the way by which a false conception of foreign policy, put 
into practice by the western democracies, led inevitably to the 

34 



MAIN CURRENTS 

threat and the actuality of totalitarianism and war."^^ The 
book sought to propound, especially as elaborated in 1954 in 
the second edition, a realist theory of international politics. It 
attempted to give the political scientist a focal point that would 
distinguish his inquiries from those of the economist, the 
lawyer, or the moral philosopher. Interest and power were 
put forth as the ordering concepts for students of international 
politics. As an example of the peculiar focus of this approach, 
Morgenthau offered the following historical event: 

"In 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland. This action 
confronted France and Great Britain with two issues, one 
legal, the other political. Did the action violate the Covenant 
of the League of Nations and, if it did, what countermeasures 
should France and Great Britain take? The legal question 
could easily be answered in the affirmative, for obviously the 
Soviet Union had done what was prohibited by the Covenant. 
The answer to the political question depended, first, upon the 
manner in which the Russian action affected the interests of 
France and Great Britain} second, upon the existing distribu- 
tion of power between France and Great Britain on the one 
hand, and the Soviet Union and other potentially hostile na- 
tions, especially Germany, on the other j and, third, upon the 
influence that the countermeasures were likely to have upon 
the interests of France and Great Britain and the future distri- 
bution of power. France and Great Britain, as the leading 
members of the League of Nations, saw to it that the Soviet 
Union was expelled from the League, and they were pre- 
vented from joining Finland in the war against the Soviet 
Union only by Sweden's refusal to allow their troops to pass 
through Swedish territory on their way to Finland. If this 
refusal by Sweden had not saved them, France and Great 
Britain would shortly have found themselves at war with the 
Soviet Union and Germany at the same time."" 

^^ Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations (2nd ed. ; New York: 
Alfred A. Knopf, 1954), p. 7. 
^^Ibid., p. II. 

35 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

The legalist looking at such a problem subordinates other 
considerations to the law. The political scientist, concerned 
with another order of action, must subordinate all aspects to 
interest and power. Neither the lawyer nor the political scien- 
tist assumes that his is the only reality, but each seeks to 
understand a subject by ordering it in terms he judges most 
relevant. The example noted above goes a long way toward 
providing a basis for discovering the most relevant standard 
of thought for approaching the half-anarchic international 
order. 

It is this general conception of international relations that 
Morgenthau seeks to apply to American foreign policy. In 
Defense of the National Interest (1950) is an attempt to 
show that any successful foreign policy must be founded on a 
rational conception of the national interest. The focal point in 
the debate over Morgenthau's theory has centered on his 
conception of the national interest. If I understand him cor- 
rectly, he postulates that every nation by virtue of its geo- 
graphic position, historic objectives, and relationship to other 
power centers possesses a clustering of strategic interests each 
more or less vital to its security. At any point in time, a 
rational foreign policy must attend to the safeguarding of 
these claims. The national interest stands above and absorbs 
the limited and parochial claims of sub-national groups, even 
though such groups seek to interpret the national interest in 
their own terms. Interests are the permanent part of the 
political landscape, whether in the county, the state, or in the 
rivalries of labor and management. It so happens that the 
present era in international relations compels statesmen to 
put first the interests of the territorial nation-state. Nowhere 
does Morgenthau maintain that the nation-state is immutable. 
In the past, the Roman Empire and its counterparts in non- 
Western civilizations commanded loyalties that exceeded the 
nation. In the present, world politics gives evidence that in 
certain critical respects the nation-state is already objectively 

36 



MAIN CURRENTS 

obsolescent. Yet any responsible contemporary statesman, 
whether Khrushchev in the world communist empire, a British 
Prime Minister in associations with Europe and the Common- 
wealth, or an American President in the United Nations, must 
put first the security of his own people. To do otherwise would 
be treasonable, for by oath of office he owes them first alle- 
giance j he acts and speaks for the generation who have chosen 
him and generations yet unborn. 

Morgenthau has no illusions, particularly in a democracy, 
that public debates will rage over the content or the imple- 
mentation of the national interest or that individual leaders 
from time to time will conceive it in conflicting and contra- 
dictory terms. In essence, the national interest is a broad 
intellectual category or a way of approaching foreign policy. 
He insists that rational statesmen measuring the forces and 
factors on the world scene must achieve some rough approxi- 
mation to the demands of national security. Otherwise, 
historians could not possibly account for the remarkable 
continuity of policies from one administration to the next as 
in the postwar programs of Democrats and Republicans or, 
in Britain, the Socialists and the Conservatives. If a nation's 
territorial integrity is to be preserved, there can never be a 
wholly distinct policy based on political ideology or party 
creed even though they shape and influence the contours of 
this interest. 

The pages of history are littered with the failures of foreign 
policies that ignored vital interests. Three examples are Nazi 
Germany's catastrophic program of fighting a war on two 
fronts, the West's failure before two World Wars to prepare 
early enough an effective resistance against expansionist Ger- 
many, and the tragic policies that led to the presence of 
Russian troops in East Germany. In each case, the countries 
concerned pursued a course of action heedless of the national 
interest that imperiled or destroyed the safety of its people. 
Looking back on these events, the historian can point to the 

37 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

forks in the road where policy-makers forsook the national 
interest. Looking ahead, the statesman has the obligation of 
choosing policies more attuned to the imperatives of security 
in his day. If there were no objective national interest, we 
could not judge either past or present policies as in fact they 
must always be judged. Morgenthau's writings on foreign 
policy are scattered in the journals of recent decades, and 
anyone wishing to see how he has applied his theory in prac- 
tice must consult a wide range of sources. 

II. THE COLUMNISTS 

Scholars were not alone in transforming American thinking 
on foreign policy. Columnists and journalists must be given 
at least an equal share of the credit or responsibility. Scholars 
analyze, synthesize, and systematize the practices and ideas of 
their trade into coherent systems, whether these are called 
laws of political economy or principles of politics. Journalists, 
with a few exceptions, are far too busy to formulate their 
beliefs, but they occasionally possess what Lord Bryce called 
"the skill of sizing up," or the knack of profiting "by small 
indications, as an old seaman discerns, sooner than the lands- 
man, the signs of coming storm."^° An extraordinary indi- 
vidual may fit these searching impressions into a more general 
picture. 

Foremost, of course, among contemporary observers is 
Walter Lippmann, who for the better part of the first half of 
the twentieth century has been the intellectual conscience of 
American policy-makers, calling them to task whenever they 
departed from first principles of foreign policy. Assistant to 
Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, and himself Secretary 
of the Inquiry that drafted and interpreted Wilson's Four- 
teen Points, frequent adviser to Presidents and diplomats, 
Lippmann has had a long, rich, and varied intellectual career. 

2" James Bryce, Modern Democracies^ Vol. i (New York: Macmillan Co., 
1931)) P- 156. 

38 



MAIN CURRENTS 

During World War I he wrote in protest against the 
naivete of the peace programs in England and America. He 
found them born of desperation and anguish, and suffering 
from the illusion that the answers to Europe's problems could 
be found merely by postulating the opposites of the tragic 
forces that were rending Western society. Liberal emotions 
flowed into causes that were noble and commendable but un- 
happily, for the most part, irrelevant. "Europe was fighting j 
fighting is monstrous. Europe was armed j let us work for 
disarmament. Europe was undemocratic j let us insist on 
democracy. . . . One nation refused to arbitrate j arbitration 
should be made compulsory." Against this Lippmann main- 
tained: "We shall end war by dealing effectively with our 
problems, not by reiterating that war is horrible." As World 
War I was drawing to a close and America was entering an 
era reminiscent in many ways of that during and immediately 
after World War II, he noted a breakdown of confidence in 
the creativity of free ideas. Lippmann wrote: "There is more 
intolerance abroad than we have been used to, and the humane 
capacity for playing with ideas and speculating freely has 
almost disappeared. . . . For the life which ideas are intended 
to control is tumbled and varied and flowing, alive with 
curiosity, and exhaustingly subtle."^^ However, the public 
and its leaders took refuge in such abstractions as the outlawry 
of war, arbitration treaties, and referendums on war. During 
certain periods these abstractions have become the substance 
of policy J at other times they are the means by which the 
complexities of foreign policy are made intelligible and accept- 
able to the people. Lippmann believed that in the interwar 
period the former was the case, even though policy-makers 
were unconscious of the extent to which their thinking was 
dominated by such illusions. 

^^ Walter Lippmann, The Stakes of Diplomacy (New York: Macmillan 
Co., 1915), pp. 8-9. The preceding quotations from Lippmann are drawn 
at random. 

39 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

The world Lippmann wrote about in his first major treatise 
on foreign policy bears little resemblance to the present inter- 
national society. There were, according to him, then only 
eight powers that counted: Great Britain, France, Russia, 
Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Japan, and the United 
States.^^ Thirty years later the number had shrunk to two. 
During and after World War I, the most pressing problem 
was the weak state, whether Turkey or China or Manchuria, 
or the states of the Balkans or Latin America or Africa. 
Corruption, inefficiency, and weakness in such areas invited 
imperial expansion and created arenas of friction. Before In- 
dian independence, a Hindu declared, "I'd rather be in hell 
than in the British Empire." His American friend asked, 
"How about being in the Russian or German Empires?" 
"I've thought of it," replied the Hindu, "that's why I am a 
loyal subject of the British Crown." 

It was not the developed nations that constituted a casus 
belUj but rather the underdeveloped areas, which, because of 
their instability and uncertainty, became political vacuums into 
which more powerful forces surged. So long as these areas 
were "stakes of diplomacy," they were fair game for any 
predatory claimant, and there was always a distinct possibility 
of conflict that would deteriorate into warfare. Lippmann 
proposed a series of international commissions to deal with 
each crisis on the spot: in Morocco, the Congo, the Balkans, 
Manchuria. Perhaps he was protesting too much when he 
argued: "The idea is not overambitious. . . . What makes it 
especially plausible is that it grasps the real problems of 
diplomacy, that it provides not a panacea but a method and 
the beginnings of a technique. It is internationalism, not 
spread thin as a Parliament of Man, but sharply limited to 
those areas of friction where internationalism is most obvi- 
ously needed."^^ Beyond this he insisted that the humane and 

^^ Ibid., p. 82. "When I say count I mean that the effective force of the 
world is in their hands, and that the decision in world affairs is for them." 
^^ Ibid.y p. 135. 

40 



MAIN CURRENTS 

sympathetic peoples of the world must not leave the organiza- 
tion of the half-developed parts of the world to the illiberal 
powers. They must overcome their natural resistance to 
exerting influence and balance their power against the expand- 
ing powers, recognizing the corrupting perils of power but 
acting to transcend them. 

In his earlier writings particularly, Lippmann was more 
hesitant about generalizing about human nature than some of 
the philosophers mentioned. He noted that in wartime the 
soldier is asked to sacrifice everything, perhaps even his life, 
and he is paid a dollar a day. No one imagines he would 
become a better soldier through economic incentives. Here 
the economic motive disappears as a factor in human nature. 
But there is also the businessman who takes a wartime con- 
tract and receives a handsome profit over and above costs. 
Few would maintain that his production of munitions would 
be as great with the economic incentive taken away. The 
patriotic code assumes one kind of human nature, the com- 
mercial code quite another. In Lippmann's own words, "This 
is one reason why it is so dangerous to generalize about human 
nature. A loving father can be a sour boss, an earnest munici- 
pal reformer, and a rapacious jingo abroad. His family life, 
his business career, his politics, his foreign policy rest on totally 
different versions of what others are like and of how he should 
act.'"* It remained for Lippmann to show in his later writings 
that for all the immense variety of codes of behavior and 
conduct these actions evoked, there were, after all, a few 
common impulses like desire for power and recognition that 
brought them into a meaningful pattern. 

However, his insights into human nature, while suggestive, 
remain inconclusive, since this broad area is more properly 
the domain of the political philosopher. Lippmann has not 
developed a systematic and comprehensive system of thought. 

^* Walter Lippmann, Public Ofinion (New York: Penguin Books, Inc., 
194.6), p. 93. 

41 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

He has ploughed no more than a few important furrows, but 
these he has cut deep and wide. One is in the area of diplo- 
macy, its nature, requirements, rules, and problems. Some 
critics have ascribed to Lippmann a too extravagant conception 
of the function and possibilities of diplomacy. He is said to be 
biased in favor of negotiations as the one alternative to war. 
In a culture that is endlessly tempted to substitute almost any 
other device for negotiations, however, Lippmann's critics 
would doubtless acknowledge that negotiations have in large 
measure stood the test of time. Americans more than other 
national groups have looked with a jaundiced eye on the 
diplomatic tradition. Lippmann perhaps more than any phi- 
losopher or pundit has opposed this prevailing trend. Ideas 
on diplomacy saturated with experience and weathered by 
time have flowed continuously from his pen. As early as 19 15, 
he wrote: "The whole business of jockeying for position is at 
first glance so incredibly silly that many liberals regard 
diplomacy as a cross between sinister conspiracy and a mean- 
ingless etiquette." However, liberals forget that the stakes 
of diplomacy are real, whether they are strategic bases, de- 
pendable allies, or influence in emergent areas. What turns a 
territory into a diplomatic problem is the combination of 
natural resources, cheap labor, markets, defenselessness, and 
corrupt and inefficient government. Other nations will then 
struggle over it and seek to organize it for the future. By 
1945 the problem had shifted from the struggle for domina- 
tion of underdeveloped areas to the quest for partnership with 
the emerging nations. When one reviews the problems that 
have plagued a beleaguered postwar world, one is struck by 
the incidence of them in underdeveloped areas: Korea, Indo- 
china, Syria, Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran. 

Lippmann believes that negotiation is the essence of diplo- 
macy and that the tragedy of our era is the conspiracy of a 
host of forces that make negotiation infinitely more difficult. 
Today every document or diplomatic exchange must be pre- 

42 



MAIN CURRENTS 

pared with an eye to its publication, and the negotiator is 
bound to consider not only what he means but what the people 
will think he means and how they will feel about what they 
think he means. Delegates and plenipotentiaries are limited 
by uncertainty over the support they enjoy. American diplo- 
mats have, in addition, been limited in their negotiating by 
public harassment. Thus democratic representatives are dis- 
tinctly handicapped when negotiating with representatives 
enjoying the full authority of a totalitarian state. 

The problem is further aggravated when a democracy 
deliberately places crippling restrictions on its leaders and 
especially on its chief executive. "Our historic experience in 
times of crisis should have demonstrated that we expect a 
Lincoln raising an army or a Wilson or F.D.R. preparing us 
for a world struggle to do for us what we wanted done, better 
than we could tell them. We preferred to 'trust the President' 
rather than summon the Congress in the Luskania crisis and 
so it has been whenever the intricate task of waging war or 
peace has plainly demonstrated that the flexibility of one 
mind was superior to the inertia of many." Americans never 
intended to give any one man such importance j they have 
always believed they possess that democratic control of foreign 
policy for which Europeans are constantly agitating. The 
United States makes no secret treaties j the treaties it does 
make have to be ratified by the people's representatives; and 
war cannot be declared without the approval of Congress. 
Yet the real power, as former President Harry S. Truman 
periodically reminds us, lies with the President, who guides 
and directs the broad course of foreign relations, and whose 
actions makes it difficult to retrace our steps. Wilson at Vera 
Cruz, McKinley in the Philippines, Eisenhower in the Middle 
East — all may have sought congressional approval for their 
actions, but when Presidents declare that vital interests are 
at stake the people's representatives have really but two al- 
ternatives: they may declare that the President already enjoys 

43 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

the powers he seeks, or they may support the President in 
spite of their misgivings, on the ground that politics cease at 
the water's edge. In the case of the Eisenhower Doctrine, the 
Democratic opposition embraced both these positions. Our 
trust of the President may stem from the hidden and partial 
truth underlying the strong words of one genial cynic: "It is 
easier to summon Congress than to adjourn itj it is easier to 
lower the floodgates of heroic patriotism than to close them."" 

The contrast between the young and the seasoned Lipp- 
mann lies precisely in his grasp of the problem of democratic 
diplomacy. In his earlier writings he saw this as a problem 
to be mastered if not quickly then at least decisively through 
the assertion of strong executive leadership. The claims that 
the moral influence of public opinions could lead the world 
to peace made him uneasy and restless from the first. All 
through the twenties and thirties, people were exhorted from 
political platforms, academic rostrums, and religious pulpits 
to exercise their international responsibilities. Policies were 
justified and inertia excused in terms of public opinion. Against 
this Lippmann inveighed: "It would be sheer hypocrisy to 
pretend . . . that any large section of the American people is 
informed, or interested, or thoughtful about international 
relations." Most people had conventional ways of thinking 
and reacting, and they had a number of vague and fixed 
loyalties which could easily be aroused. Opinions about foreign 
affairs tend to harden into molds — support for the United 
Nations, the Open Door, the Monroe Doctrine, anticoloni- 
alism, and Western solidarity. Since alternatives are provided, 
the President can direct the flow of patriotism and by his 
actions, proclamations, or selection of issues rally the nation 
to support one pattern or the other. The interplay between the 
President and the public gives a clue to the nature of demo- 
cratic foreign policy. 

Yet something profound and far-reaching has transpired 

2 '^ Walter Lippmann, Stakes, p. 17. 

44 



MAIN CURRENTS 

since Lippmann began his inquiry. In 1915 he wrote confi- 
dentially: "The reason why we trust one man, rather than 
many, is because one man can negotiate and many men can't. 
Two masses of people have no way of dealing directly with 
each other."^® "One diplomat may see what is in the other 
diplomat's mind, and time his utterance accordingly 5 a whole 
people cannot see quickly into another people's mind and its 
utterance is inevitably crude. The very qualities which are 
needed for negotiation — quickness of mind, direct contact, 
adaptiveness, invention, the right proportion of give and 
take — are the very qualities which masses of people do not 
possess."^^ Therefore Lippmann applauded the willingness 
of a democracy to recognize that the nation must be repre- 
sented in mediation by an individual to the point of granting 
one man plenary power over war and peace. 

By 1955 he was not so confident that this principle had 
been accepted. He spoke of the malady of democratic states 
and warned of the paralysis of governments. He found that 
one source of the mounting disorder in Western society was 
the gradual usurpation by legislatures of the powers of execu- 
tives. Democracies without leaders react to events without 
governing them, and it will not do "to think poorly of the 
politicians and to talk with bated breath about the voters. No 
more than the kings before them should the people be hedged 
with divinity."^^ The twentieth century has witnessed a func- 
tional derangement of the relationship between the people 
and the government. "The people have acquired power which 
they are incapable of exercising, and the governments they 
elect have lost powers which they must recover if they are to 
govern."^^ This is our historic catastrophe, and it may lie at 
the heart of the alarming failure of liberal democracies to cope 
with the harsh realities of this century and of their decline in 

26 /^/V/., p. 26. ^"^ Ibid., p. 29. 

^^ Walter Lippmann, The Public Philosofhy (New York : Macmillan 
Co., 1956), p. 14. 
^^Ibid., p. II. 

45 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

influence and self-confidence. Lippmann seems far less san- 
guine in recent years that this trend can be reversed. Popular 
government had been heralded as the bearer of good tidings 
of peace. Instead, half the world today appears to be denying 
or despairing of democracy. The people's assemblies, whether 
national or international, run the gamut from apathy to belli- 
cose passions. Indeed at times Hobbes's words in Leviathan 
seem prophetic: "For the passions of men, which asunder are 
moderate, as the heat of one brand, in an assembly are like 
many brands, that inflame one another, especially when they 
blow one another with orations." Lippmann has pondered 
these events as he has propounded his philosophy in more 
than twenty volumes. He sees but one answer, admittedly 
tentative, based on Jefferson's dictum that the people are not 
"qualified to exercise themselves the Executive Department, 
but they are qualified to name the person who shall exercise 
it." Taking this as a rough beginning, Lippmann finds the 
true boundaries of the people's power in their ability to give 
and withhold consent — "their consent to what the government 
asks of them, proposes to them, and has done in the conduct 
of their affairs. They can elect the government. They can 
remove it. They can approve or disapprove its performance. 
But they cannot administer the government"^" — especially its 
foreign affairs. 

In the post-World War II period, Lippmann more con- 
sistently than any other writer on international politics has 
sounded a recurrent theme now familiar to all his readers. He 
differs from other political realists in maintaining throughout 
a greater awareness of the actual limits of American power. 
Throughout the "cold war" era, he has suggested — very 
cautiously, it is true — that American policy-makers run the 
risk of setting their goals too high, politically, militarily, and 
ideologically. The United States is no longer the paramount 
power. In many important respects, the Soviet Union to all 

^^Ibid., p. 14. 

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MAIN CURRENTS 

practical purposes has become an equal. Moreover, both super- 
powers are more limited than is sometimes appreciated in 
imposing their wills on smaller, less powerful nations around 
the globe. In the early stages of the struggle between East 
and West, it was fashionable to point to the bipolarity of 
postwar international politics. However, increasingly in recent 
years, Lippmann has argued that whereas militarily constella- 
tions of power continued bipolar in character, politically in 
certain important respects the world was tending to move 
toward a multipower pattern. In Korea, Formosa, Yugo- 
slavia, Poland, and China, the super-powers are no longer 
able consistently to call the tune. National leaders like 
Syngman Rhee, Mao Tse-Tung, and Tito have stood up to 
the great powers and temporarily at least refused to accept 
their dictates on matters of vital interest. In this sense, politi- 
cally at least, we are witnessing a limited diffusion of power 
partly because of the ambiguous character of thermonuclear 
weapons which have at best problematic influence in the vast 
continents of Asia and Africa. Not every crucial decision has 
been made in Moscow and Washington. The locus of decision 
has shifted to farflung capitals of the world, whether in Cairo, 
Baghdad, Warsaw, or East Berlin. 

This trend, which runs counter to the dominant postwar 
trend, has encouraged Lippmann to call for more modest 
estimates of what the West can do and for greater imagina- 
tion in shaping foreign policies. He has urged political and 
economic initiatives more in accord with these realities. He 
has warned that many of our policies and commitments ex- 
ceed national power. He has been more willing to explore 
"fertile compromises" in Germany, the Middle East, and in 
Asia than most of his contemporaries. Especially in light of 
the West's failure to bring power in line with commitments, 
his injunctions have impressed serious students of foreign 
policy. 

I do not know whether other outstanding writers or com- 

47 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

mentators like James Reston, the Alsops, Eric Sevareid, or 
Edward R. Murrow would accept this interpretation of the 
world distribution of political power or of the American 
constitutional system. I suspect they would lay greater stress 
on the powers of Congress. In a more general way, however, 
they, as Lippmann, have exerted a not inconsiderable influ- 
ence in shaping thinking about international politics. Reston, 
without attempting to erect a fully elaborated theory, has 
done more to assess the domestic and international forces that 
mold foreign policy. Behind the dispatches appearing under 
Reston's by-line lies the skeletal framework of a broader view 
of the nature of world politics. He displays the same appre- 
hension as Lippmann, Spykman, or Morgenthau over public 
declarations as a substitute for concrete policies, over propa- 
ganda debates for negotiations, over the disregard of vital 
national interests. Whether or not he considers himself an 
exponent of the international politics point of view, he surely 
has done much to move American thinking toward the realities 
of foreign policy as we find them today. 

This is the more remarkable because Reston and his 
colleagues view foreign policy in day-to-day terms and de- 
scribe emergent problems as part of a continuous flow of 
events. All of them have criticized the failure of American 
policy, particularly in recent days, to rally the nation's re- 
sources — intellectual, economic, political, and military — in 
response to a succession of challenges. They find that leader- 
ship is too often conceived of as a popularity contest. The 
slogan, "I would rather be right than be President" (or 
"Senator" or "Congressman") tends to be inverted. Not one 
of these writers is content with the present "state of the union" 
in what the people expect and receive of their chosen repre- 
sentatives. 

This critique runs the gamut of the American political 
scene. Each columnist or commentator would have the Ameri- 
can people lodge greater confidence and authority in our 

48 



MAIN CURRENTS 

diplomats abroad. They have polemicized over the years 
against the dramatic shrinking of power o£ ambassadors and 
envoys abroad. Many of the strictures go to the issues of 
democratic diplomacy. Free societies are prone to view the 
diplomatic corps as a threat to popular sovereignty. They 
shrink from the subtle and complicated maneuvers of minis- 
ters and representatives continually probing the intentions and 
policies of allies and adversaries. The public requires that both 
strategy and tactics of Americans in foreign capitals be held 
under constant scrutiny. In consequence, Soviet diplomats en- 
joy a temporary advantage inherent in a controlled system 
where freedom of maneuver remains essentially unrestricted. 
They can seize the initiative and try out or set aside policies 
and "trial balloons." Not one of the writers would have us 
abandon the precious heritage of responsiveness gained 
through sacrifice and many decades of political experience. If 
I read their dispatches correctly, they are calling for new and 
more hopeful combinations of public and private actions by 
men in whom society reposes sufficient hope and respect to 
stand by them alike in good and bad days. 

Such a doctrine of statesmanship applies to chief executives, 
secretaries, and other officials who hold a public mandate for 
their deeds. Obviously, government conceived in this image 
places heavier burdens on its leaders than "government by 
Gallup polls." Those who govern must be prepared to face 
public condemnation j they can never content themselves 
merely with registering or reflecting powerful waves of pas- 
sion and sentiment. They hold in their hands, however, a 
weapon that strong and scrupulous men have not hesitated to 
exercise. They can educate the people in the fundamental 
lessons of politics. They can expose the truth as they have 
been given to see the truth — boldly, fairly, but in outlines 
which the public, caught up in the business of work-a-day 
living, cannot possibly know. Our columnist group believes 
that the people will act wisely if the salient facts are put be- 

49 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

fore them. In this sense, they are the authentic democrats, for 
democracy at its center involves a faith in political intelligence. 
In almost every period of American history, the function of 
leadership is crucial. The present crisis imposes a sense of 
urgency that is unparalleled in its requirements and oppor- 
tunities. The pace of events is so great, the need of prompt 
and rational decisions so overwhelming, that a doctrine of 
effective and popular leadership becomes a sheer necessity. 
The common thread in the writings of this group is the weight 
they give to this basic principle. 

III. THE POLICY-PLANNERS 

Finally, in tracing the evolution of American thinking on 
foreign policy no one can afford to overlook the role played 
by that remarkable body of men who made up the Policy 
Planning Staff during its earlier more active years. Created in 
1947 by General Marshall as the first regular office of the 
Department of State to be charged with considering problems 
from the standpoint of the totality of American national inter- 
est, it has bequeathed a corpus of thought that both reinforces 
the main stream of scholarly thinking on world politics and 
adds a new dimension of its own. While individual planners 
differ in the emphasis of their approach, they confront prob- 
lems of foreign policy from a common philosophic base. 

The writings of George F. Kennan, Paul H. Nitze, Louis J. 
Halle, C. B. Marshall, and Dorothy Fosdick carry the pres- 
tige and authority of the practitioner who cannot be easily 
dismissed as a spinner of theories within the sanctuary of some 
academic cloister. They are written by men who have been 
on the firing line. From the beginning this group felt the need 
of "an applicable body of theory," and sought to evolve an 
adequately stated "theoretical foundation to underpin the 
conduct of our external relations." Against the background 
of these principles, they sought to appraise current events 
and evaluate the governing concepts by which statesmen have 

50 



MAIN CURRENTS 

been guided in recent decades. In the process a Policy Plan- 
ning Staff approach to the baffling and stubborn complexities 
of foreign policy emerged. This approach is founded on 
certain common elements that run like red thread through 
the individual viewpoints of this talented group, whatever 
their individual differences. In my reading I discover at least 
five that call for attention. 

The first common element is essentially negative in charac- 
ter. It rests on the proposition that there are few if any 
absolutes in international politics. Lord Acton counseled: "An 
absolute principle is as absurd as absolute power," and advised: 
"When you perceive a truth, look for the balancing truth." 
His philosophy is singularly appropriate to foreign policy, 
for when our diplomats and statesmen are dealing with a 
foreign country their role is at best a marginal one. They can 
help or encourage existing or latent tendencies on foreign soil, 
but it is for those more intimately responsible for another 
country's affairs to realize them. Needless to say, this runs 
counter to certain basic American emotions. It is tempting to 
proclaim that this troubled world could be free of all conflict 
if only peoples everywhere would adopt the political institu- 
tions that have been forged in the fire of our national experi- 
ences. "The Wilsonian thesis was . . . that, since the world 
was no longer safe for the American democracy, the American 
people were called upon to conduct a crusade to make the 
world safe for American democracy. In order to do this the 
principles of the American democracy would have to be made 
universal throughout the world."'^ 

However, there is no absolutely best state for all peoples. 
We are reminded of de Tocqueville's words on the United 
States written in 1831: "The more I see of this country the 
more I admit myself penetrated with this truth: that there is 
nothing absolute in the theoretical value of political institu- 

^^ Walter Lippmann, Isolation and Alliances: An American Speaks to 
the British (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1952), p. 22. 

51 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

tions, and that their efficiency depends almost always on the 
original circumstances and the social conditions o£ people to 
whom they are applied." The ways in which peoples move 
toward more enlightened forms of government constitute the 
most profound of the processes of national life. They stem 
from the bedrock of national character and existence} they 
have an organic growth. For example, Kennan, writing on 
"When the Russians Rose against the Czar," concluded by 
saying that if changes were to take place in the Soviet Union, 
Americans would do well "not to impede or embarrass the 
process by claiming it for our own and by attempting to see 
in it the repetition and vindication, in universal terms, of our 
own history. It is her own laws of development, not ours, 
that Russia must follow. The sooner we learn that there are 
many mansions in this house of nations, and many paths to 
the enrichment of human experience, the easier we will make 
it for other people to solve their problems, and for ourselves 
to understand our own."^^ It is barely possible that in stressing 
this point Mr. Kennan and his colleagues have neglected the 
corollary that notwithstanding endless variations there are 
minimum standards of justice and order that any polity must 
observe lest the fabric of mankind be threatened. It may be 
that some of the classical writers were more attuned to this 
problem than the children of the present relativist age, for 
they were ever in search of the attributes of the best state, 
however transcendent these might be. 

The present school of policy-planners has resisted as well a 
too absolute conception of the possible goals and accomplish- 
ments of foreign policy. It is well to be ever aware of the 
limits as well as the purposes of foreign policy, the boundaries 
as well as the magnitudes. The statesman confronting the 
world is constrained, more often than not, to act within narrow 
limits. His choices are severely restricted and events pass 
swiftly beyond the realm of conscious choice. The Cambridge 

^^ New York Times Magazine, March lo, 1957, p. 40. 

52 



MAIN CURRENTS 

historian Herbert Butterfield has observed : "Behind the great 
conflicts of mankind is a terrible human predicament which 
lies at the heart of the story. . . . Contemporaries fail to see the 
predicament or refuse to recognize its genuineness so that our 
knowledge of it comes from later analysis. It is only with the 
progress of historical science on a particular subject that men 
come really to recognize that there was a terrible knot almost 
beyond the ingenuity of man to untie." 

Such a predicament seems to be presented by World War 
II, for its roots are embedded fatefully and inextricably in 
the aftermath of World War I. France and England had been 
weakened far more deeply than they knew. Austria-Hungary 
had disappeared as a restraint on Germany. Russia was no 
longer a predictable and constructive force, for it had been 
seized by violent men who were implacably hostile to those 
capitalist societies to which political necessity might have 
united them as natural allies. Into this setting marched the 
one great united people in Central Europe, the Germans — 
"frustrated, impoverished, stung with defeat, uncertain in the 
breakdown of their traditional institutions." In the light of 
these facts it is all too easy to absolve Western statesmen of 
any responsibility and to regard them as "actors in a tragedy 
beyond their making of repair."^^ 

The choices of Western statesmen were significantly and 
tragically narrowed by this tangled web of events. Yet in this 
crisis if nothing approaching a complete solution was to be 
found, neither was the possibility of making wiser and more 
effectual choices entirely eliminated. For example, it might 
have been possible to lend greater encouragement, support, 
and understanding to certain moderate forces within the 
Weimar Republic. A different attitude toward the defeated 
German people, one less dominated by distaste, suspicion, and 
social snobbery, might have strengthened the more liberal 

^^ George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy: igoo-ig£o (Chicago: Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 78. 

53 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

forces which were not totally lacking in Germany at that 
time. Once the struggle seemed inevitable the West might 
have deterred it — especially in 1936 at the time of the occupa- 
tion of the Rhineland — by a firm show of strength, or later 
by a resolute military build-up that even tyrannies would have 
had to respect. Finally, when war came, the allies could have 
made a decisive stand not for total victory but for those more 
limited military and political objectives sometimes possible 
in war. 

Thus even in the historical eras when the statesman is most 
sharply restricted, choices exist for better and worse courses 
of action. However, the margins of power to effect actions 
outside a nation's jurisdiction are infinitely more limited than 
within its own borders. Great powers are never as omnipotent 
as they imagine. Power for Tolstoy was "merely the relation 
between the expression of someone's will and the execution 
of that will by others," but in foreign relations the use of 
power is never this direct. When the wills involved are out- 
side one's own political society there is often little that can be 
done. Obviously the psychology that "Americans can do any- 
thing" ignores The Limits of Foreign Policy — the significant 
title of C. B. Marshall's book — and it can lead to the most 
painful disillusionment. Referring to the charge that the State 
Department lost China, "a land never ours to lose," C. B. 
Marshall sagely observes: "From the tone of the discussion 
one might never guess that indigenous impulses and predispo- 
sitions counted for anything in China's course: for the native 
army's want of military zeal someone here must be held to 
account J for an oriental regime's loss of grip on itself blame 
must be fixed in Washington."^* The belief that America is 
omnipotent is only one example of the grievous tendency of 
many Americans to deal in absolutes. In Marshall's words: 
"We forget that other nations are not boxcars to be shunted 

3* Charles Burton Marshall, T/ie Limits of Foreign Policy (New York: 
Henry Holt & Co., Inc., 1954)) P- 18. 

54 



MAIN CURRENTS 

around by an American locomotive j we forget that legislation, 
in and of itself, gives no certainty of achievement} we forget 
that victory is not peace in our time but only a prevention of 
defeat} and most of all we tend to forget that the only cer- 
tainty in human affairs is uncertainty, and that plans and 
policies must be contingent and flexible." The various mem- 
bers of the group join in protesting these errors, and ad- 
monish, in Mr. Kennan's words: "We must be gardeners and 
not mechanics in our approach to world affairs." 

A second element common to the policy-planners is a gen- 
eral dissatisfaction with the governing ideas of the twenties 
and thirties and the practices of still more recent days. The 
prevailing dogmas of the earlier years conceived of power 
politics and the balance of power as the simple evils from 
which wars emerged. Basing their actions on the concepts of 
scholars in the thirties, the victors in World War II sought 
to replace the balance of power with solemn pledges and 
imposing political machinery. The conclusion was drawn that 
states were divisible into aggressor and peace-loving states, as 
more recently the distinction between law-abiding and law- 
breaking states has been attempted. Mr. Halle has trenchantly 
observed: "It seems strange to us now, though the logic will 
escape no one, that Germany, Italy and Japan were named 
the aggressor states while the Soviet Union was associated with 
China and ourselves as one of the peace-loving powers. On 
the basis of this continuing refusal to see a balance of power 
as either good or necessary, we cooperated with the Soviet 
Union in creating the German and Japanese ^power vacuums' 
on either side of her into which, while we confidently demo- 
bilized our forces, she proceeded to expand her power. We 
saw our error again at the eleventh hour and ever since have 
led western civilization in a desperate effort to restore that 
Balance of Power which it has been our custom to decry." 

There were, to be sure, a few bold spirits like Mahan and 
Spykman who were charting new paths toward a profounder 

55 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

analysis of the sources of American security. But they com- 
prised but a tiny coterie and their efforts remained suspended 
in the midair of history — "an isolated spurt of intellectual 
activity against a background of general torpor and smugness 
in American thinking about foreign affairs.'"^ The illusion 
was nursed that other people were as Americans, or more 
precisely, Americans who happened to wear beards j that 
others shared our values and might soon adopt our institu- 
tions J that a few clear-cut blueprints on universal disarmament 
or the outlawry of war would do for the world what our basic 
laws had done for usj and that others would recognize as we 
did that they could obtain most of their objectives without 
force and that, therefore, they would accept a freezing of the 
status quo. We assumed that the Anglo-Saxon concept of law 
could quite readily be made as applicable to states as to indi- 
viduals at home. 

American concepts and institutions were partly the largess 
of history, and this is one reason Americans are peculiarly 
susceptible to believe that they are so readily transportable. 
We did not invent them. "The American," as de Tocqueville 
points out, "was born free without having to become so." The 
nation was spared many of the struggles that come with new 
ideas, for most of our first principles had been hammered out 
in the hard conflicts of the Old World. Moreover, in the 
beginning the colonists were left to their own resources, and 
by the time the British homeland attempted to reestablish 
the lead, the habits of freedom and independence had been 
staunchly implanted. Few if any of the one-time colonial 
areas are today so richly blessed by tradition, nor can they 
point to a system of law and politics based on the writings of 
men like Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. Is it any wonder 
that some Americans misjudged the problems and difficulties 
of installing a freely chosen, responsible, and limited gov- 
ernment? 

^' Kennan, American Diplomacy, p. 6. 

56 



MAIN CURRENTS 

A third bond uniting members of the original Policy Plan- 
ning Staff is their attitude toward progress. Their viewpoint 
is a distinct counterbeat to the resounding conviction of most 
Americans. Woodrow Wilson spoke for the times when he 
proclaimed that selfish national purposes were being sup- 
planted by universal principles of mankind. He heralded the 
"slow, painful struggle forward, forward, up, up, a little at 
a time, along the entire incline, the interminable way." Some 
of his heirs, less forthright or less fastidious about the truth, 
have cast aside the encumbering notion that progress need be 
painful or slow. The glaring failure of recent events to accord 
with this sanguine and tidy theory would seem to invite, at 
the very least, a sober stocktaking. In any event, when history 
departs too radically from any theory, it is customary to 
reformulate the theory. Not so in this case! If history has 
stubbornly refused to conform to the straight-line pattern of 
progress, the trouble must lie in the errors of a traitorous 
statesman, or in the deceit of Yalta, Munich, or Versailles. 
Were it not for one evil man or nation the upward march 
would continue. But for a single aberration, the pathway 
would be free from thorns, "the tax burden light, the budget 
in balance and the future secure." The unending frustrations 
of daily life prompt men to grasp more tenaciously than ever 
the vision of progress, for they try to project their unfulfilled 
hopes onto their nation or the world. 

"Man would fain be great and sees that he is little j would 
fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be 
perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections." This diag- 
nosis is no less telling now than it was when Blaise Pascal 
set it forth. We continue to pin our hopes to a prospect as 
towering as inevitable progress in order to shield ourselves 
from the pathos and meaninglessness of our individual attain- 
ments. In the Soviet Union, human history is conceived of as 
a relentless unfolding, stage by stage, toward a plateau of 
perfection embodied in the classless society. In our own coun- 

57 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS ■ 

try the goal has been a world made up of free and democratic 
regimes. 

To the "planners," any and all these concepts of progress 
and human perfectibility rest on shaky foundations, engender 
fanaticism and self-righteousness, and fall far short of reality. 
Mr. Kennan warns against looking to the diplomatist or the 
policy-planner "for any belief in human perfectibility, for any 
optimistic philosophy of public affairs." He is, instead, like 
the physician who has "a shabby and irritating group of 
patients: violent, headstrong, frivolous, unreasonable. He 
will go on treating them as long as he is permitted to, saving 
them from such follies as he can. . . . But do not ask him to 
enthuse about them, to idealize them or to expect them to 
change. . . . He has seen them too much. He knows them too 
well. He loves them too deeply." 

A fourth unifying feature shared by the little band of 
theoretical practitioners is their passion for history. Part of 
their constraint to be historians lies in an uneasiness with 
earlier interpretations. Students and statesmen in the period 
between the wars assumed that the history of Talleyrand's 
world and Bismarck's was venerable lore. When history was 
used at all it tended to serve as a marker for tracing the up- 
ward curve of international institutions and behavior, a use 
of history "which squints and overlooks half the facts and 
half the difficulties," inviting others to set the record straight. 
History is the best teacher but its lessons are not on the surface. 
Thus, eminently useful, for example, are the soundings made 
by C. B. Marshall on the origins of isolationism, or by Kennan 
on the original national purposes of this country, or by Halle 
on the nation's civilization and its foreign policy. The West 
has a long historical experience and this calls for study and 
reflection; particular histories can be slighted only at grave 
peril to the future. I am impressed with the recurrence in the 
writings of these men of this kind of thought: "Here, in this 

58 



MAIN CURRENTS 

Soviet problem, we have the greatest possible need for the 
broad historical perspective.'"® But this is history not for 
history's sake but history derived from a preoccupation with 
the problems of foreign policy j for this reason it has its own 
individual, peculiar focus. For example, an advocate of this 
approach in writing about a statesman would not feel com- 
pelled to tell all about the statesman — his good intentions, 
his breeding, his social life, his descendants and heirs, in addi- 
tion to the implications of his policies or proposals. His 
tendencies and states of mind would be considered appropriate 
objects of study, but only as they relate to the conduct of 
foreign policy. This may disturb the professional historian 
who might wish, say, that all the personal and institutional 
details surrounding the Pact of Paris be set forth; whereas 
Mr. Kennan believes that it is the broad tendency of Ameri- 
can statesmen to meet concrete international problems with 
legal formulas that sets the guidelines for research. 

The fifth link that joins these men — men of whom former 
Secretary of State Dean Acheson has said: "Any foreign office 
in the world would be incomparably richer through their 
presence" — is their common effort to understand themselves, 
their nation, and the outside world. They see foreign policy 
as a realistic business addressed to the nature of man and 
politics and to the world as we find it. In Mr. Halle's words: 
"We must have as shrewd an understanding of ourselves as 
of our environment. These requirements are not met by 
showing the outside world in its sordid reality, with all its 
wrinkles, scars and warts, while rendering ourselves in un- 
blemished marble."^^ "Inconsistencies . . . are inherent in the 
nature of man, that moral centaur, half beast and half god, 
within whose being the struggle between good and evil re- 
mains unresolved." 

^^ George F. Kennan, Realities of American Foreign Policy (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1954), p. 92. 

^"^ Louis J. Halle, Civilization and Foreign Policy (New York: Harper & 
Brothers, 1955), p. 27. 

59 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

The members of the Policy Planning Staff, unlike many 
social scientists, hold to a more or less explicit conception of 
human nature. According to Halle, it is "the concept of man 
on which our civilization is based ... of a beast with a soul, 
a creature nine parts animal and one part divine whose mission 
it is to overcome the animal element and realize his possi- 
bilities of divinity.'"* In the Christian tradition, the good in 
men is a spark of light in the darkness, and the mission of 
mankind is to make the spark grow. The awareness that this 
concept is under fire runs through this discussion j but it is 
striking that a group with a clear vision of the true nature of 
politics and diplomacy should start with this historic view of 
man which is so squarely at odds with the Enlightenment, 
Darwinism, Freudianism, and Marxism. Perhaps this anti- 
modern view is one of the reasons they all return unashamedly 
to what Kennan has called "the forgotten art of diplomacy 
from which we have spent fifty years trying to escape." If we 
look for a single statement that best summarizes their col- 
lective view of the way a powerful nation can relate itself to 
its international politics with the outside world, we discover 
it in this summary paragraph by Mr. Kennan: 

"This task [world peace] will be best approached not 
through the establishment of rigid legal norms but rather 
by the traditional devices of political expediency. The sources 
of international tension are always specific, never general. 
They are always devoid of exact precedents or exact parallels. 
They are always in part unpredictable. If the resulting con- 
flicts are to be effectively isolated and composed, they must 
be handled partly as matter of historical equity but partly, 
also, with an eye to the given relationships of power. Such 
conflicts, let us remember, usually touch people at the neu- 
ralgic points of their most violent political emotions. Few 
people are ever going to have an abstract devotion to the 
principles of international legality capable of competing with 

^^ Ibtd.y p. 164. 

60 



MAIN CURRENTS 

the impulses from which wars are apt to arise. This is particu- 
larly true of democratic peoples, beholden as they are at times 
to the most imperious seizures of political emotionalism.'"^ 
Is it any wonder that the spokesmen of the older, legalistic 
approach have made Kennan and his colleagues their special 
target? Aside from enjoying the easy conscience of men who 
have not hesitated to speak the truth, perhaps their other 
consolation may come from knowing that the philosophers, 
columnists, and policy-planners, often without knowledge of 
one another, stand on common ground in arriving at the 
same conclusion. 

IV. UNITY AND DIVERSITY WITHIN AN 

AMERICAN APPROACH 

The philosophers, columnists, and policy-planners were 
selected as prototypes of one important approach to interna- 
tional politics. While they share common assumptions about 
the nature of reality, they have, of course, differed widely in 
their prescriptions and judgments of courses of action, because 
in every event there is a multitude of contingencies calling 
for assessment and prediction. The scholars and journalists 
and planners would not always see in the same light great 
issues like Summit talks, Suez, or Communist China. Yet in 
reviewing their writings, it is truly remarkable how often 
their opinions and conclusions have been similar. They ap- 
proach problems not with one mind but within a common 
framework, and the fact that their judgments have not always 
proved wrong would seem to indicate that a unifying approach 
is valuable. Full precision in political prediction eludes them, 
but their estimates serve nonetheless to illuminate the future. 
Perhaps one cannot hope for more. 

^^ Kennan, Realities, p. 36. 



61 



CHAPTER 2 

LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 
IN AMERICAN STATECRAFT 



That exercise of force is often necessary in the pursuit 
of worthy objectives is regretfully accepted, but that 
power should become an objective in itself, a goal for 
individual, social, or state action, is considered both un- 
desirable and wicked, a condemnation which is unfor- 
tunate because it hampers a sound understanding of one 
of the basic aspects of all social life. — Nicholas 

SPYKMAN 



If our account of the unfolding of American thinking on 
world politics is even approximately true, there remains out- 
standing another crucial and basic problem. The "ideas and 
philosophies we have been considering are for the tnost part 
those of theorists or political thinkers. Yet a perennial prob- 
lem for Western civilization has always been the relationship 
between theory and practice. For their part, scholars and 
writers are inclined to believe that history consists largely 
in the application to practice of theoretical truths chv^ned up 
in the thinking or inner consciousness of wise and farseeing 
people. We recall the statement by John Maynard Keynes 
that ". . . the ideas of economists and political philosophers, 
both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more 
powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is 
ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to 
be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually 
the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, 
who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from 
some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the 

62 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with 
the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, 
but after a certain interval j for in the field of economic and 
political philosophy there are not many who are influenced 
by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of 
age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and 
even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the 
newest. But soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which 
are dangerous for good or evil."^ 

On their side, those who pride themselves on "muddling 
through" are profoundly suspicious that oftentimes the word 
is not flesh, that it tends to be futile, irrelevant, and dissoci- 
ated from events. Frequently a policy appears to be based on 
shaky if not false foundations, yet in spite of its deficiencies 
may "blunder through." The New Deal was an example of 
a moderately progressive, pragmatic political movement that 
at some point or another offended the sensibilities of every 
intellectual and theorist but enjoyed vast success that escapes 
the imagination of the intellectual and his programs. 
Woodrcw Wilson, the perfect modern example of the theorist 
in politics, "excelled in the exposition of fundamentals. . . . 
His political method was to base his appeal upon broad and 
simple principles, avoiding commitment upon specific meas- 
ures." ^e thought mainly along a priori lines. For this 
reason the purity and nobility of his thinking and writing 
were rarely tarnished by the dross of political practice. 
Perhaps for this ^-eason he seemed to stand out as the symbol 
of-) hope for Europe and America. John Maynard Keynes 
could write: "When President Wilson left Washington [for 
the Paris Peace Conference] he enjoyed a prestige and a 
moral influence throughout the world unequalled in history. 
His bold and measured words carried to the peoples of Eu- 

^ John Maynard Keynes, T/ie General Theory of Emfloyment, Interest 
and Money (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1936), pp. 383-84.. 

63 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

rope above and beyond the voices of their own politicians.'" 
Mr. Keynes observed: "The President's programme for the 
World, as set forth in his speeches and his notes, had dis- 
played a spirit and a purpose so admirable that the last desire 
of his sympathizers was to criticize details — the details, they 
felt, were quite rightly not filled in at present, but would be 
in due course. It was commonly believed at the commence- 
ment of the Paris Conference that the President had thought 
out, with the aid of a large body of advisers, a comprehensive 
scheme not only for the League of Nations, but for the em- 
bodiment of the Fourteen Points in an actual Treaty of 
Peace."^ 

But in fact, according to Keynes, the President had thought 
out nothing; when it came to fractice his ideas were nebulous 
and incomplete. Except in the most general way, he had no 
notion of what he or America wanted and he was ill-informed 
on the conditions and history of Europe. In consequence he 
was easy prey for someone like Clemenceau of France, who 
had a policy, knew which details were vital and what interests 
were essential, and felt about France what Pericles felt about 
Athens — that nothing else mattered. Clemenceau had one 
illusion, France, and one disillusion, mankind, including his 
colleagues at the peace conference not least. Present-day his- 
torians of the Paris Peace Conference record that it was 
Clemenceau, the cynical actor, not Wilson, the idealist and 
theorist, who was the architect of the peace, ill-fated and 
tragic as it was. 

It is entirely possible that this sweeping criticism of the 
great American President by a British intellectual goes too 
far; subsequent historians like Professors Edward Buehrig 
and Arthur Link have doubtless endeavored to right the 
balance. However, to many critics President Wilson seems 
to epitomize the characteristic weakness of the political intel- 

^ John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace 
(London: Macmillan Co., 1920), p. 34. 
^ Ibid., p. 39. 

64 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

lectual — failure to grasp the distance that lies between the 
proclamation of an ideal and its realization in the face of 
persistent, deep-rooted obstacles. Writing of intellectuals in 
German political life, Meinecke observed: "They could give 
to their political aspirations a spirit of purity and independ- 
ence, of philosophical idealism and of elevation above the 
concrete play of interests . . . but through their defective feel- 
ing for the realistic interests of actual state life they quickly 
descended from the sublime to the extravagant and eccentric." 
The root cause of the divorce between intellectuals and prac- 
titioners may be a sense of alienation and a result of the nearly 
unbridgeable gulf growing out of the painfully separate and 
unique tasks in which each is engaged and expects the other 
to engage. The intellectual is asked to supply a ready-made 
and well-tested doctrine or philosophy of international society 
to which the statesman can confidently turn. The practitioner 
is expected to behave according to the tidy and rational plan 
the intellectual has of the universe. These demands which 
require of intellectuals and statesmen more than lies within 
their power have again and again through history set the 
one against the other or invited the one to rationalize his 
failures in terms of the other's shortcomings. 

The examples of this clash are legion. One has only to 
mention trade unionists and intellectuals in the British Labor 
Party. Unionists denounce intellectuals for their visionary 
points of view, said to be out of touch with the practical prob- 
lems bedeviling movement leaders. Intellectuals in turn 
condemn what they describe as narrow and uninspired bureau- 
cratic thinking. The history of the Bolshevik Party in the 
Soviet Union offers another example of the struggle between 
party intelligentsia who included Bukharin, Kamenev, Radek, 
and Trotsky, and practical politicians such as Lenin and Stalin. 
In American politics the party intellectuals and grass roots 
leaders often find themselves at odds, and in two recent Presi- 
dential campaigns the Democrats suffered from such a clash. 

65 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS ■ 

In international politics examples of the allegedly inherent 
differences between scientists and diplomats are not difficult 
to come by. For President Wilson, peace would have been 
attainable if conflicts among states were settled "not by diplo- 
mats or politicians each eager to serve his own interests but 
by dispassionate scientists — geographers, ethnologists, econo- 
mists — who had made studies of the problems involved."* 
This same philosophy or viewpoint hovered over the creation 
of the League and the United Nations. The dijfficulties of 
attaining worthwhile goals were almost inevitably attributed 
to deviousness or obstruction by the practitioners. In present- 
ing the draft covenant of the League to the Paris Peace 
Conference, President Wilson warned that "if the deliberating 
body of the League of Nations was merely to be a body of 
officials representing the various governments, the peoples of 
the world would not be sure that some of the mistakes which 
preoccupied officials had admittedly made might not be re- 
peated."^ Somewhat later Lord Cecil charged in the House 
of Commons that Prussians were not confined to Germany, 
that officials and practical men in Britain who clung to things 
as they were comprised the chief hindrance to progress. Only 
the pressure of public opinion could set them right. Some of 
us recall a similar argument put forward in connection with 
the establishment of world government. Most of the diffi- 
culties confronting these and other bold international experi- 
ments were due to the expert or professional who, it was said, 
somehow had a personal stake in keeping things as they were. 

I. REFORMISTS AND REALISTS 

You will have noted by now that the group of intellectuals 
whose approaches have occupied our attention as philosophers, 
columnists, and policy-planners fit rather poorly this picture 

* Ray Stannard Baker, Woodroiv Wilson and World Settlement (New 
York: Doubleday & Co., 1922), Vol. i, p. 112. 

^ H. Temperley, ed., History of the Peace Conference of Paris (London : 
Oxford University Press, 1920-24), Vol. iii, p. 62. 

66 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

of the typical theorist continually at war with practitioners. 
These men who together have laid the cornerstone for a more 
coherent and systematic approach to world politics are all of 
them self-conscious political realists. They have been in the 
forefront of those who warn of the divorce of political thought 
from political action. 

Furthermore, we have seen that one of the failures of the 
intellectual community in the aftermath of World War I was 
its reluctance to deal with politics in a world system neither 
ordered nor controlled by an all-powerful central authority. 
It chose to abjure the toils of power politics — a luxury that 
practitioners can rarely indulge themselves — since at most 
they were considered a passing phase of an international so- 
ciety that was about to disappear with the birth of a brave 
new world. According to this point of view, the end of power 
politics was to be accomplished in three ways. Ultimately, 
power politics would be eliminated through instituting a 
world government. Practically, power politics would be abol- 
ished when its main exemplars, the totalitarian states, had 
been erased. Provisionally, this evil system would be progres- 
sively and decisively undermined through the example of a 
moral and upright nation foreswearing relations with cor- 
rupted and power-seeking nations, pursuing policies of neu- 
trality, and abstaining from the morally ambiguous exercise 
of influence or coercion in world politics. 

The irony of this period in American foreign relations 
stems from the fateful influence that such a philosophy had 
on the conduct of foreign policy. If one reads the memoirs of 
men like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sumner Welles, 
or Joseph Grew, their profound embarrassment over the im- 
plications of this creed seems plainly apparent. However, the 
gap separating their thinking and that of intellectuals who 
fathered such views tended to be swallowed up in the spirit 
of the times. It is not by accident that until the past decade 
the United States has vacillated in its policies between three 

67 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

courses of action. Before both World Wars, we tried to abstain 
or withdraw from the impure and corrupted politics of the 
European continent. We refused to give guarantees against 
German expansionism, especially to France, for to have done 
so would reduce the force of our moral example. Similarly, 
an intervention in the affairs of Europe in order to bolster 
and strengthen democratic forces in the Weimar Republic 
would have weakened our moral position. But neutrality and 
abstention from the unhappy rivalries of the world lost any 
justification when Germany and Japan threatened American 
security and attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We turned then 
from neutrality to a holy crusade against the evil incarnate 
in fascism. We engaged in the world struggle not selfishly 
or for politicaF advantage but in order that conflict might 
"cease once and for all and that the evil men who had been 
^responsible might be destroyed. These wars were not ordinary 
struggles for territorial adjustments or specified political ob- 
jectives. They were holy wars of "unconditional surrender" 
against solitary infidels and troublemakers who had caused 
the catastrophes and with whose demise rivalry and aggran- 
dizement would cease. After the Second World War, it was 
essential that what had been undertaken and achieved in war 
be sealed and perfected in peace. The agents of power politics 
lay mortally wounded j now the climate in which their 
nefarious policies had thrived must be cleansed and trans- 
formed and international organization substituted for politics. 
Secretary of State Hull and others proclaimed that in the new 
commonwealth of the United Nations, the problem of power 
would disappear. What this meant in concrete political terms 
was that the status quo with its prevailing lawfulness based 
on the relative satisfaction of the victorious powers must be 
made permanent through the regularized procedures of new 
international organizations. Thus through policies of neutral- 
ity, holy war, and the substitution of organization for world 
politics, the philosophy of the interwar period made itself felt. 

68 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

By World War II, the barrenness of this theory made it 
imperative that there be a point of view that would explain 
the war and the preconditions of peace to Americans as 
Winston Churchill and certain British intellectuals had done 
for their people. 

This was the legacy that the political realists were called 
upon to provide. For this group, beginning with Niebuhr and 
ending with Kennan, rivalry and some form of strife among 
nation-states came to be viewed as the rule and not a mere 
accident of the past. There are harmonies and disharmonies 
among states but the failure of every scheme for world peace 
in the past must be sought in the stubborn conditions out of 
which disharmonies emerged and not through holding up a 
blueprint of a commonwealth of perfect harmony. In all so- 
cial groups — whether the state or in smaller, more intimate 
communities — a contest for influence and power goes on. On 
the international scene, rivalries among states remain largely 
uncontrolled by effective law or government. The business 
of statesmanship and diplomacy under these conditions is to 
limit the struggles and restrict their scope. The means availa- 
ble are a mixture of military power and diplomacy employed 
in the unceasing pursuit of new balances of power and rough 
equilibriums among contending parties. The aims include 
adjustment and accommodation on the basis of mutual recog- 
nition that an equilibrium does not exist. The realist strives 
to mitigate the rivalries among nations, through checks and 
balances and by compromise and bargaining. Abstract moral 
principles may be the ultimate object and purpose of the 
bargain or agreement, but an abstract principle is not an essen- 
tial part of the bargain itself. In President Wilson's words: 
"There is indeed an element of morality in the very fact of 
compromise in social undertakings." Realism would prepare 
men for the tragic and stubborn discrepancy of means and 
ends in international politics. It accepts for the guide and 
premise of its thought the permanence and ubiquity of the 

69 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Struggle for power. But it strives unceasingly through every 
means at its disposal to contain and limit concentrations of 
power and to compose and relieve tensions that could lead 
to a situation of war. 

II. LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

The political and philosophical molds in which popular 
approaches to domestic and international politics are cast in 
most Western countries are neither reform nor realism but 
liberalism and conservatism. One reason for this is doubtless 
the instrumental and procedural nature of the former. Realism 
or reform give appraisals of the nature and dynamics of the 
political process, its requirements, limits, and laws. Liberalism 
and conservatism by contrast partake of the character of politi- 
cal ideologies. Quite commonly they provide moral justifica- 
tion for the claims of interest groups and they may also in 
more general terms constitute a philosophy. In Acton's phrase 
"Liberalism is not only a principle of government but a phi- 
losophy of history." One of the difficulties about liberalism 
and conservatism results from their alternating meaning as 
philosophy, political ideology, or public mood. In addition, 
they plainly lack fixed meanings} consider, for example, that 
liberalism has meant at various stages Manchester laissez- 
faire, moderate state-interventionism to safeguard liberty and 
equality (e.g., the liberalism of the New Deal), and utopian- 
ism in world affairs. Nevertheless, public policy, including 
foreign policy, has been influenced by these living political 
doctrines and, while recognizing with Erasmus that every 
definition is dangerous, we may usefully explore their place 
in Western civilization. Their political currency from the 
Founding Fathers to the incumbent President who defines 
his program as "liberal conservatism" suggests they are per- 
haps the prevailing Western political creeds. If this be true, 
a discussion of America's foreign relations should give heed 
to the meaning of these philosophies. We recall Coleridge's 

70 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

words in Essays on His Own Times: "However ... it may 
be the fashion to talk of speculation and theory, as opposed . . . 
to practice, it would not be difficult to prove, that such as is 
the existing spirit of speculation, during any given period, 
such will be the spirit and tone of the religion, legislation, and 
morals, nay, even of the fine arts, the manners and the fash- 
ions. Nor is this the less true, because the great majority of 
men live like bats, but in twilight, and know and feel the 
philosophy of their age only by its reflections and refractions." 
If manners, art, and legislation are influenced by prevailing 
Weltanschauungs or world views, foreign policy must also 
be subject to their sway. 

Liberalism and conservatism as they have been used in 
political debate appear at first glance to be simple and straight- 
forward terms. "What is conservatism?" Abraham Lincoln 
asked. "Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the 
new and untried?" Others tell us that conservatism seeks to 
defend the status quo while liberalism aspires to leave it 
behind. Conservatism finds its treasures in tradition, custom, 
prejudice, and prescription. According to Chesterfield "the 
bulk of mankind have neither leisure nor knowledge sufficient 
to reason right; why should they be taught to reason at all? 
Will not honest instinct prompt, and wholesome prejudices 
guide them, much better than half reasoning?" The English 
constitution is for the conservative an arch-example of custom 
and prescription for "its sole authority is that it has existed 
time out of mind." Conservatism with its abiding veneration 
of the past need not be aligned irrevocably against change as 
such although this is its besetting danger. In Denis Healey's 
apt phrase, "The Conservatives have a congenital grasp of 
the rules of thumb for protecting British interests as defined 
in the Victorian heyday. But they are slow to recognize 
changes in those interests and even slower to understand 
changes in the world within which their rules of thumb must 

71 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

be applied."® Conservatives oppose too rapid social change 
because of its consequences. Burke assayed to distinguish pro- 
found and natural alterations and the radical infatuations of 
the day. He preferred a gradual course in order to prevent 
"unfixing old interests at once: a thing which is apt to breed 
a black and sullen discontent in those who are at once dis- 
possessed of all their influence and consideration [and at the 
same time] . . . prevent men, long under depression, from 
being intoxicated with a large draught of new power. . . .'" 
Insights such as these into issues of interest and power have 
given conservatism an historic relevance sufficient to evoke 
Harold Laski's remark: "Burke has endured as the permanent 
manual of political wisdom without which statesmen are as 
sailors on an uncharted sea." 

Nevertheless, this wisdom has been judged and found 
wanting in the face of rapidly changing conditions in industrial 
societies. For conservative movements, the exercise of power 
easily becomes an end in itself and the exclusive aim of politi- 
cal activity. In Karl Mannheim's words "The Conservative 
type of knowledge originally is the sort of knowledge giving 
practical control. It consists of habitual orientations towards 
those factors which are imminent in the present situation."* 
Thus it makes obsolescent administrative techniques serve as 
a substitute for policy in a world that is ever changing. The 
demands of a technical society for new institutions, status 
and power for rising social groups, and far-reaching national 
programs have led the most progressive peoples to by-pass 
the conservative point of view. In modern societies, liberalism, 
being less disposed uncritically to defend every status quo 
has enjoyed certain a priori advantages. Moreover, liberalism 
in its various stages has been linked with industrialization 

^ Richard Grossman, et al., T/ie Ne<-d) Fabian Essays (New York: Frederick 
A. Praeg-er, 1952), p. 162. 

^Quoted in Clinton Rossiter, Consewatism in A?nerica (New York: 
Alfred A. Knopf, 1955), p. 41. 

® Quoted in Grossman, New Fabian Essays^ p. 162. 

72 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

and with democracy. Initially, it rallied its followers, espe- 
cially in Britain and France, to the goal of overturning feudal 
aristocratic authority, including the authority of the mercan- 
tilist state. As the political ideology of a rising middle class, 
in Reinhold Niebuhr's words, it sought "to free the individual 
from the traditional restraints of an organic society, to endow 
the governed with the power of the franchise, to establish the 
principle of the 'consent of the governed' as the basis of politi- 
cal society J to challenge all hereditary privileges and tradi- 
tional restraints upon human initiative, particularly in the 
economic sphere and to create the mobility and flexibility 
which are the virtues and achievements of every 'liberal so- 
ciety' as distinguished from feudal ones."^ 

In the same way, however, that conservatism ran afoul of 
the bewildering pace of events that transformed a feudal 
order into sprawling industrial societies, liberalism became 
the victim of its own origins. On the one hand, both liberalism 
and socialism "tend to imagine that changes are morally or 
practically desirable simply because they are changes. Man 
reared in the doctrine of automatic progress cannot help feel- 
ing that everything that will be will be right. But most 
historical changes are morally neutral. It is difficult to main- 
tain that the brotherhood of men is better realised in Eastern 
Europe than it was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire."^" 
On the other hand, liberalism was identified too narrowly 
with the claims and interests of the middle class, first as a 
fighting creed but subsequently as the justification of a new 
status quo that was threatened by too much government 
interference. Liberalism in its historical development takes on 
a dual meaning. In the beginning, while it came into being 
as a defense of individual freedom, it was freedom interpreted 
in behalf of industrial and commercial groups. Consequently, 

^Reinhold Niebuhr, "Liberalism: Illusions and Realities," The New 
Republic, Vol. 133, No. 27, July 4, 1955, p. 11. 
^^ Grossman, New Fabian Essays, p. 169. 

73 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

in our own day the original libertarian point of view has 
become the main bulwark for conserving the power of large 
enterprises and corporate groups. On the other side, the mid- 
dle classes, once having unleashed in the world the enduring 
truth of liberalism that justice depends upon freedom from 
outside restraint, have witnessed its application by others. As 
liberalism in the beginning served to justify protests by entre- 
preneurs against the restraints of government, newly emergent 
classes like labor seeking security and freedom themselves 
have called upon the state to redress the balance of power. 
The source and origin of restraints upon freedom for one 
segment of American life is the overwhelmingly powerful 
enterprise, while for the other it continues to be the state. Thus 
liberalism having had its birth in the demands of society for 
freedom from restraint by the state now in at least one of its 
versions witnesses the appeals of society — or at least a part 
of society — that the state become the protector of liberty, 
equality, and security against the overwhelming power of 
large industrial groups. To quote Niebuhr again: "Thus in 
every modern industrial nation the word 'liberalism' achieved 
two contradictory definitions. It was on the one hand the 
philosophy which insisted that economic life was to be free 
of any restraints. In this form it was identical with the only 
conservatism which nations, such as our own, who had no 
feudal past, could understand. . . . On the other hand the word 
was also used to describe the political strategy of those classes 
which preferred security to absolute liberty and which sought 
to bring economic enterprise under political control for the 
sake of establishing minimal standards of security and 
welfare."^^ 

Perhaps we should not be too surprised that terms like 
liberalism take on different meanings. We recall the felicitous 
phrase of Justice Holmes: "A word is not a crystal, trans- 
parent and unchanged 5 it is the skin of a living thought and 

^^ Niebuhr, "Liberalism," p. ii. 

74 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

may vary greatly in color and content according to the cir- 
cumstances and time in which it is used." In any case, the 
semantic problems of liberalism arising from its dual meaning 
and use — simultaneously to justify the free play of the market 
in an uncontrolled economy and the centralization of power 
in the state as a means of arresting the concentration of power 
in the hands of a too powerful industrial class — are not its 
most serious difficulty. Liberalism is steeped in the principles 
of the French Enlightenment and in faith in man's essential 
goodness and his capacity to subdue nature. The articles of 
faith of the Enlightenment creed include the beliefs that civili- 
zation is becoming more rational and moral, that injustice is 
caused by ignorance and will yield to education and greater 
intelligence, that war is stupid and can be overcome through 
reason, that appeals to brotherhood are bound to be effective 
in the end and if they fail for the moment we need only more 
and better appeals, and that conflict is simply a matter of 
misunderstanding. Liberalism as a total philosophy of life 
accepted the Enlightenment view of human progress and 
perfectibility. Democracy for such a creed is a simple rational 
possibility. In Lord Bryce's words in the preface to Ostro- 
gorski's Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties 
(1902): "In the ideal democracy every citizen is intelligent, 
patriotic, disinterested. His sole wish is to discover the right 
side in each contested issue, and to fix upon the best man 
among competing candidates. His common sense, aided by a 
knowledge of the constitution of his country, enables him to 
judge wisely between arguments submitted to him, while his 
own zeal is sufficient to carry him to the polling-booth." One 
can wonder why such a gross contrivance as a polling booth is 
necessary at all in the face of this paragon of political virtue. 
Such ideas were basic to all the political miscalculations of the 
Enlightenment. It failed to take seriously the factors of 
interest and power, the rudiments of political order, the 
organic and historic character of political loyalties, and the 

IS 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

necessity of coercion in forming the solidarities of a commu- 
nity. Indeed the failures of liberalism have tended to inhere 
in precisely this blindness to the perennial difference between 
human actions and aspirations, the perennial source of conflict 
between life and life, the inevitable tragedy of human exist- 
ence, the irreducible irrationality of human behavior, and the 
tortuous character of human history. 

The corrective to these liberal illusions in Western civiliza- 
tion has been conservatism. Conservatism speaks for the 
skeptical and cautious side of human nature, which sees all 
about it too many examples of man's sinfulness, frailty, and 
caprice. It is full of grave doubts about the goodness and 
rationality of man, the sagacity of the majority, and the wis- 
dom of reform. It seeks to put the calipers on the possibilities 
of human attainment. It tends toward pessimism and displays 
a natural preference for stability over change, continuity over 
experiment, the past over the future. Two momentous events 
sparked its emergence: the French Revolution and the Indus- 
trial Revolution. Conservatism appeared as a reaction against 
the extravagant radicalism and utopianism of the former and 
the dismayingly rapid pace of social change brought about by 
the latter. 

Moreover, while the conservative tradition is a Western 
phenomenon, its impact has been greatest in particular coun- 
tries like Great Britain. In France, the background of the 
Ancien Regime and an organic feudal order ought to have 
given conservatives an objective past to which to appeal. It 
would have done so but for one insoluble problem. French 
conservatives with their rationalism were never able to agree 
among themselves as to just what it was they wished to pre- 
serve. By contrast. Great Britain was able to absorb both the 
liberalism of John Locke and the conservatism of Edmund 
Burke. Its constitutional monarchy provides a fusion of the old 
and the new political philosophies. The conservative tradition 
grew up in reaction against the destructive forces released in 

76 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

the process of emancipation from aristocracy and feudalism. 
It was therefore reasonable that European and in particular 
British conservatives should sound the tocsin against Jaco- 
binism and industrialization in behalf of the vestigial qualities 
worth preserving in a decaying feudal order. 

For America, conservatism from the outset lacked a context 
in which it could raise its voice. The boundless opportunities 
of a new continent, the abundance of natural resources, the 
spirit of freedom, and the release from the shackles of an 
established order hardly provided fertile soil for its rapid 
growth and flowering. The industrialists who carved an em- 
pire out of this vast wilderness, such as the railway builders 
and traders, were scarcely conservatives in the European sense. 
Their very successes made them easy prey for the liberal 
illusions of progress and perfectibility. There have of course 
been conservative thinkers who were not without distinction. 
Especially in the field of foreign policy, the Federalists left 
us a legacy of precept and example that seems partly valid 
even today. It was not that American soil was rocky ground 
from which conservatism could take no nourishment. Rather, 
in the revealing words of Clinton Rossiter, it was "a lush 
jungle in which a more adaptable group of principles — democ- 
racy, egalitarianism, individualism — sprouted in easy abun- 
dance and choked off conservatism except in isolated spots, 
like the pre-Civil War south.'"^ 

You may respond that American business reflects the con- 
servative tradition and perpetuates a mode of thinking going 
back to Edmund Burke. Perhaps if we hold the tenets of 
American capitalism, or more particularly of the present 
moderately conservative administration in Washington, up 
to the mirror of the historic model of conservatism, we can 
test this proposition at least in a rough and approximate way. 
The reader may keep score for the present-day conservative 
as the roll is called of conservatism's first principles. According 

^^ Rossiter, Conservatism^ p. 223. 

77 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

to Clinton Rossiter, writing in Conservatism in America^ "the 
traditional Conservative doesn't go around all the time mum- 
bling epigrams about reverence and righteousness.'"' "The 
genuine Conservative is not a crusader j he goes about his 
mission not zealously but dutifully."^* "Realism, common 
sense, adaptability, expediency, respect for unpleasant facts" 
are his trademark. "The Conservative is not an extreme indi- 
vidualist."^^ "Society, the total community, which is a great 
deal more than government, is historically, ethically and logi- 
cally superior to the individual."^® "In discussing the nature 
of government, he likes to point out to radicals that it is 
natural rather than artificial, to individualists that it is good 
rather than evil, and to collectivists that it is limited rather 
than unlimited in potentialities and scope."^'^ "He continues 
to assert the beneficence of an aristocracy of talent and virtue, 
one that is trained for special service and thus entitled to 
special consideration."^^ "The preference for liberty over 
equality lies at the root of the Conservative tradition." "Man, 
says the Conservative, is a composite of good and evil, a blend 
of ennobling excellencies and degrading imperfections. He 
is . . . not perfectible. . . . Never, no matter how he is edu- 
cated or situated or restrained, will he throw off completely 
his other innate qualities of irrationality, selfishness, laziness, 
depravity and corruptibility. . . . Although some Conserva- 
tives find support for their skeptical view of man in recent 
experiments in psychology, most continue to rely on religious 
teaching and the study of history [and] . . . prefer to call the 
motivation for iniquitous and irrational behavior by its proper 
name: Original Sin."^^ 

The points at which the qualities and convictions of Ameri- 
can "conservatives" from the Civil War to the present match 
up with those of traditional conservatism are not without con- 
sequence. They believed and believe in the superiority of 

^^ Ibid., p. 51. ^* Ibid., p. 55. ^^ Ibid., p. 40. 

^^Ibid., p. 36. ^"^ Ibid., p. 31. ^^ Ibid., p. 2+. 

^^ Ibid., p. 21. 

78 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

liberty over equality, accepted as part of a concept of equal 
opportunity the fact of natural inequality, saw the necessity 
for some form of aristocracy albeit taking the form of an 
appeal for a businessman's government, were suspicious of 
most change except industrial expansion, and espoused laissez- 
faire. But the discrepancies are greater than the identities. 
For American "conservatives" there is a tendency to substitute 
morale for morality, economics for ethics and politics, and the 
mood if not the methods of the extreme Right for moderation. 
The Eisenhower moral crusade is not the first of its kind, the 
essential role of expediency and mere politics are frequently 
obscured or derided, rugged individualism is glorified at the 
expense of a proper regard for the supremacy of the com- 
munity, instability rather than stability is fostered by harsh 
language, and radical anti-statism and a fatuous optimism 
prevail in the leading views of man and human progress. In 
a nutshell, American conservatism is more optimistic, material- 
istic, and individualistic than the conservative tradition. One 
historian notes that "they were the . . . only Right in Western 
history to push individualism so far as to assert that a man 
could never be helped, only harmed, by the assistance of the 
community."^" Mr. Rossiter concludes: "The extra measure 
of moral indignation that George Kennan finds in our foreign 
policy} the worst excesses of tariff legislation, the moral 
blindness of those who insist on the identity of Socialism and 
Soviet Communism ... all these are the major counts in the 
indictment of political conservatism."^^ By ignoring the capac- 
ity for evil in men and states, the American conservative has 
provided no adequate means for dealing with it. By dismissing 
society — its nature, needs, and problems — conservatism has 
left unanswered and even unasked the eternal questions re- 
garding the good society, the class structure we have and we 
want, the relationship between leadership by our "best mem- 
bers" (who are not necessarily all lawyers and businessmen) 

-'^ Ibid., pp. 162-63. ^^ Ibid., Tp. 239. 

79 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

and our democratic precepts, the proper and necessary pur- 
poses of government in modern society, the prospects for a 
balanced individualism that is based on natural social and 
moral allegiances and is not a sand-heap of separate particles 
of humanity, the requirements of statecraft beyond the simple 
proposition of "applying business methods to government," 
and the essentials of private and public morality. All these 
and more are issues that cry for attention, reflection, and 
exposition but on most of them latter-day conservatives have 
chosen a posture of resounding silence. 

How can one account for this silence and for the glaring 
omissions of American conservatism seen in the light of an 
historic Western tradition? Perhaps the answer can be sup- 
plied in the form of a sweeping generalization. "American 
conservatism is not the traditional conservatism of Western 
political history. That conservatism was rooted in the aristo- 
cratic tradition J American conservatism is a decayed form of 
nineteenth century liberalism." American conservatism is the 
faith of the business community. At one point in Europe's 
history it was a revolutionary creed. It opposed the traditional 
restraints of a feudal society and sought to enlarge the liberties 
of the middle classes. Its claims of liberty, however restricted, 
were passionate, compelling, and urgent. But, as others have 
argued, the odyssey of the original liberalism can be traced 
in the movement from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty to 
Herbert Hoover's The Challenge to Liberty. Conservatism 
in recent decades has become less a rallying cry than an ideo- 
logical fagade. It has sought less to draw more men to its 
cause than to protect the economic power of those already 
under its shield. In domestic affairs its dynamic qualities have 
disappeared j in world affairs it has retained the worst illu- 
sions of traditional liberalism. Indeed American conservatism, 
which stands as the arch defender of nineteenth-century 
liberalism, has proved itself particularly inept in the one 

80 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

sphere where historically it enjoyed an unquestioned superior- 
ity: the realm of foreign policy. 

III. LIBERALISM, CONSERVATISM, AND 

FOREIGN POLICY 

In the Western world this superiority had rested not on 
moral foundations but on conservatism's greater political 
realism. Conservatism recognized the complexities of power 
partly because of its experience in wresting it from feudal 
lords and partly because of an enlightened tradition of politi- 
cal reflection and writing. Not only had conservatives wielded 
power J they were more articulate about its use than the latter- 
day economic overlords, whose power was covert and non- 
political. Traditional liberalism by contrast was informed by 
higher ends of justice but, especially in the half-organized, 
half-lawless international society, it faltered in the realm of 
means. In Europe the contrast is seen at the time of the 
French Revolution in 1793 in the three-cornered duel in the 
House of Commons between Edmund Burke, Charles James 
Fox, and William Pitt. Fox was the leader of a faction of 
Whigs who opposed war with France on legalistic and ra- 
tionalistic grounds. Looking to England's treaties with the 
Low Countries lying in the path of French expansionism. Fox 
found no legal rights and duties that would justify interven- 
tion. Moreover, England had stood aside when Poland was 
invaded. Hence Fox appealed to consistency in maintaining: 
"We had seen the entire conquest of Poland, and invasion of 
France, with such marked indifference, that it would be diffi- 
cult now to take it up with the grace of sincerity."^^ For him 
there was no awareness of the bearing which French control 
of the Low Countries would have upon the traditional politi- 
cal, military, and economic interests of Great Britain. Against 
this argument Edmund Burke, the leader of a faction of 

^^ Hans J. Morgenthau and Kenneth W. Thompson, Principles and Prob- 
lems of International Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950), p. 338. 

81 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Whigs determined to support William Pitt, Prime Minister 
and Tory leader in war against France, rejected the view that 
a logically inconsistent foreign policy is necessarily a bad one. 
"Nations . . . were not to sit like judges, to act with perfect 
impartiality, to the exclusion of all ideas of self. Their first 
duty was to take care of themselves 5 and that of England 
particularly was to have a watchful and jealous care of the ag- 
grandizement and encroaching movements of France. France 
was near J Prussia and Poland were distant j and unless there 
were apprehensions of the injury to Poland ultimately reach- 
ing England, there was nothing that rendered it expedient 
for her to interfere. England saw Sweden overturn the consti- 
tution of Poland: she afterwards saw the czar depose Stanis- 
laus and put Augustus on the throne of that kingdom. In short, 
she saw various revolutions in Poland and ultimately a parti- 
tion of it, and never stirred a hand."^^ What then was the 
ground for acting now. Pitt's answer is a timeless one: "The 
hon. gentleman defies me to state, in one sentence, what is 
the object of the war. In one word, I tell him that it is 
security."^* Fox saw clearly the counterplay of ideas and the 
plane on which they were in conflict and the limits of every 
ideological crusade. "If it was maintained that opinions held 
in France must contaminate the minds of Englishm.en, this 
would lead to a revival of every species of intolerance, and 
to a more rigorous scrutinizing of opinions than could be safe 
for states or individuals. . . .'"^ But conservatives like Burke 
and Pitt saw more clearly the hard choices which had to be 
made in a nation's survival. 

More recently, when Britain was plunged into its deepest 
crisis, Winston Churchill came forward as the exponent of a 
conservative point of view. Significantly Britain's typical ex- 
ponent of the business creed, Neville Chamberlain, displayed 
the same miscalculations in international politics that middle- 
class liberals showed in the United States. He assumed that 

^^ Ibid., p. 348. ^* Ibid., p. 349. '^ Ibid., pp. 344-45. 

82 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

diplomacy was no more than a series of business transactions 
among peoples of different tongues, and he expected that 
dictators could be beguiled much as honest British business- 
men. He thought that Hitler must have his price, a price 
which reasonable men should be prepared to pay. The de- 
monic fury of the Nazi movement was beyond his ken because 
he had never plumbed the depth or height of human nature. 
The Western conservative tradition has dealt for generations 
with an endless succession of rivalries and combinations based 
on common fears, ancient sanctities, ethnic loyalties, and 
common goals. The conservative understands these forces be- 
cause he has had to manipulate, persuade, coerce, resist, and 
accommodate them. However, because American conservatism 
has not been schooled in this tradition, it lacks an understand- 
ing of the complexities of power. 

Therefore in foreign policy, it fluctuates between isola- 
tionism and imperialism, between underestimating our re- 
sponsibilities and overestimating our power. In one moment 
it implies that our interests in Europe are of no consequence 
and prompts us to cut our losses (and save taxes). In the next 
moment it is ready to force European nations to adopt free 
enterprise systems, to throw up their interests in Asia and the 
Near East, or to unite at our behest. In Korea, conservatives 
vacillated between total victory and withdrawal and but for a 
popular President would probably have rebelled at the 
armistice. According to their likes, the United Nations ought 
to represent a law-making international body (Senator Taft 
in about 1944), or should be turned out of this country for 
jeopardizing our sovereignty and constitutional rights. In 
Asia and the Middle East, where the struggle with commu- 
nism is ultimately economic and political, American conserva- 
tives are prepared to make vast and far-reaching military 
commitments but balk at more modest but not less essential 
economic programs. With a naivete approaching Chamber- 
lain's, they presume to appease and beguile Middle Eastern 

83 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

nationalistic movements through proclamations and threats 
against our unhappy and sometimes imprudent European 
friends who happen to be more vulnerable than we are, but 
not greatly so, in certain areas of the world. They crudely 
assume that a calculating generosity must inevitably bring 
gratitude, that friendship and favor can be curried and bought 
without regard to long-standing enmities and hatreds. 

Finally, American conservatives who have none of the sense 
for the organic growth of communities of which the European 
conservative tradition always has taken account assume that 
our moral authority can be strengthened anywhere in the 
world through simple declarations of goodwill or overt dis- 
play of our power. They assume, for example, that the Eisen- 
hower Doctrine can build a community no less vital than the 
Atlantic Community. They forget that the latter has become 
a political reality not solely through the pressures of con- 
temporary history but primarily because it was founded upon 
the common traditions, mutual interests and shared values, 
hopes, and fears of Western civilization. These impondera- 
bles are the factors most difficult for American conservatives 
to grasp. If one reflects that European conservatives had been 
peculiarly at home in this realm, its character as lerra incog- 
nita for American conservatism contributes a final ironic note. 
In the same way that society has been lost sight of within 
ordered national groupings, community is dismissed from 
the conservative's calculations on the international scene. The 
consequences for our policies are both appalling and frighten- 
ing. Proposals for the most part advanced by conservative 
Senators to go it alone in Asia and the Middle East — a view- 
point Senator Mansfield recently described as "isolated inter- 
nationalism" — are based on a reckless exaggeration of our 
moral resources in Asia in the same way that former President 
Hoover in his policy of "Fortress America" underestimated 
our community and spiritual affinity with allies and partners 
in Europe. Thus conservatism has moved from crisis to crisis, 

84 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

alternately overestimating and underestimating America's 
interests and power. 

Nor has liberalism in the main been as sure of its ground 
in world as in national affairs. Prior to World War II, the 
Left in England and Scandinavia had urged collective action 
against the aggressors at the same time they were engaged in 
voting down appropriations for rearmament. The American 
labor movement has a history of isolationism and some of its 
present-day leaders speak with less than consummate wisdom. 
American liberals have tended consistently to exaggerate the 
influence of reason and moral force in the world. They have 
been endlessly tempted to espouse alternately an isolationist 
viewpoint that would shield liberal joys from the alien dis- 
eases of a decadent Old World or an international approach 
that endeavors to refashion the strange and ancient societies 
of Europe and Asia. Indeed among liberals, isolationism and 
internationalism tend to be cut from the same cloth. Both 
tend to underrate the resistance of external forces to the at- 
tainment of liberal goals and values. Liberal isolationists from 
Jefferson, who urged that we cancel all our treaties, through 
Bryan to those liberal revisionist historians who in the inter- 
war period sought to show that America had only an insignifi- 
cant stake in resisting the expansion of Imperial Germany by 
preserving some kind of equilibrium in Europe and Asia have 
all been the victims of one illusion. They have erred by be- 
lieving that a liberal society could remain free to achieve its 
national purposes even though power was being concentrated 
in one nation or combination of nations bent on dominating 
Europe or, in Hitler's case, the world. They overlooked the 
fact that sooner or later the marriage of overwhelming power 
and unlimited ambition anywhere in the world causes the 
United States to rally all its forces to resist tyranny and take 
recourse to a form of national organization that Harold Lass- 
well has aptly described as the "garrison state." Put to this 

85 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

test, liberal goals like freedom are sacrificed to overriding 
demands of national security. 

We have paid a high price for two recent expressions of this 
particular liberal illusion. The first is in part the responsibility 
of apologists for the political-military strategy which prevailed 
at the end of World War II. They defended the decision 
through which military strategy was divorced from political 
objectives providing for the withdrawal of American and 
British forces and the advance of Russian troops into the 
heart of Germany. It was argued that whether Soviet influ- 
ence was extended a few hundred miles west of Prague was 
of little if any consequence for the shape of the postwar world. 
Without arguing the point whether this movement of Russian 
forces was inevitable, most competent observers today are 
agreed that these decisions by Allied leaders were among 
the most fateful of the war. Almost every policy for Europe 
since 1 946 has been designed either to contain further Russian 
expansion or to roll back the Soviet Union from its advance 
position along a line extending from Stettin to Trieste. An- 
other example of this illusion can be drawn from the events 
of more recent days. The Franco-British adventure of 1956 
in Suez can be condemned on numerous counts. Liberals, 
however, have seen fit to go one step further and to join their 
unqualified moral indignation with political estimates of the 
most questionable character. They have implied that the re- 
duction of British and French influence in the Middle East 
was a net gain for the world, oblivious to the fact that the 
subtraction of this component of Western power, however 
one views it, is a severe blow to our total influence in the 
region. The best proof of this lies in the desperate and 
inevitable attempt of the United States through the Eisen- 
hower Doctrine to substitute our influence for that of our 
friends. The most urgent warning against this form of liberal 
thinking comes from Arab leaders like Charles Malik of 
Lebanon, who hastened to advise President Eisenhower that 

86 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

unless American influence were part of Western influence in 
the Middle East, it would prove ineffective in halting the 
spread of communist influence. Incidentally, liberal interna- 
tionalism has helped to confound the problem by insisting that 
either an all-powerful United States or the United Nations 
would be able to shoulder all Europe's burdens and do so 
more capably in resisting the spread of communism anywhere 
in the world. 

Thus the supreme tragedy of contemporary American 
thinking on foreign policy stems from the failure of either 
liberalism or conservatism to measure up to its task. Ironically, 
liberalism has been most successful when its spokesmen re- 
flected some of the insights of the conservative tradition. 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt is perhaps the classic exam- 
ple of a liberal American President who was at home in the 
troubled world of international politics partly because he was 
a renegade Hudson Valley aristocrat. He wished to preserve 
the American system and to this undertaking he brought all 
the skill and ingenuity of conservatism whose exponents have 
seemed, as it were, to wield power by instinct and experience. 
Henry Steele Commager, in a review of Arthur Schlesinger's 
The Crisis of the Old Order^ comments on Roosevelt's pro- 
foundly conservative character: "He was conservative per- 
sonally — born to wealth and tradition and noblesse oblige j 
trained at Groton and Harvard j deeply rooted in the landj 
a devout churchman. He was deeply conservative in poli- 
tics . . . and — as events were to reveal — in foreign policy."^' 

In the same way, American conservatives who have con- 
tributed most in foreign policy have been tainted with a 
measure of liberalism in their approach. We can only note in 
passing that President Eisenhower with his devotion to Ameri- 
ca's international responsibilities is no less a classic example 
than President Roosevelt. For Mr. Eisenhower has perceived 
both the limits of American power in the vast expanses of 

^^ New York Times Book Review, March 3, 1957, p. 3. 

87 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Asia and the necessity of confronting Russian power with firm 
countervailing power in the face of its expansion into the power 
vacuums of the world. He has accepted compromises in Korea 
and Indo-China because he recognized that short of an endless 
struggle on the mainland of China there was no alternative 
to the acceptance of a balance of power in Asia. At the same 
time in Formosa and in the Middle East he has not hesitated 
to assert American influence and power, for he realized that 
to do otherwise might upset the world balance of power. His 
failures have been a strange blending of the pacifism and 
rationalism of liberalism and the conservative illusion that 
smiles and goodwill would turn even the most stubborn foe 
into a friendly American. 

In short, liberalism and conservatism have proved adequate 
to their tasks only when two conditions have prevailed. First, 
liberal or conservative leaders whose foreign policies have 
been most successful can more accurately be termed realists. 
They have succeeded because their liberal or conservative 
policies were founded on a realistic estimate of the perennial 
factors in the historical and political situation. Secondly, the 
shortcomings and failings of a liberalism that is too much the 
child of the Enlightenment and of a conservatism that tends 
uncritically to embrace a crusading nationalist point of view 
require a blending of the deeper insights of the two. Liberal- 
ism alone cannot save us unless it is freed from its worst 
illusions about human nature and politics. Conservatism — 
especially American conservatism — is bedeviled by its pas- 
sionate attachment to each successive status quo and its tend- 
ency to see the advance of mankind through the narrow squint 
of upper-middle-class American life. England's political ad- 
vance must be reckoned at least partly due to the creative 
interplay between its traditions of Lockean liberalism and 
Burkean conservatism. The one has a keen sense of justice 
while the other is more aware of all the inescapable aspects of 
community life that are organic in character. Historic con- 

88 



LIBERALISM AND CONSERVATISM 

servatism perceives that acknowledged rights and duties, 
acceptable standards of justice and mutual interests, are more 
often the result of slow and unconscious growth than of con- 
scious political intervention. It likewise concedes that every 
political and social realm has its hierarchies of power and 
authority, not least on the international scene. Finally, it 
argues that it will not do to assume that peace and order and 
a more stable community can be had through an effacing of 
these arrangements. The source of all conflict in the world is 
never solely the great powers or political parties. As often as 
not, the weak tempt others to aggression j powerlessness is 
hardly an assurance of responsibility (a vivid example may be 
the conduct of certain smaller states in an international assem- 
bly such as the United Nations) . One of the creative functions 
of conservatism is continually to remind liberals that whether 
in j&eld or factory, school or church, congress or the interna- 
tional society, there are hierarchies of leadership and an al- 
most endless number of organic processes that hold the com- 
munity together, give it whatever cohesiveness it enjoys, and 
regulate and integrate its life. 

However while conservatism in the West has seen the 
organic processes of each community in true perspective, 
American conservatism, which is chiefly the remnant of a once 
vital laissez-faire liberalism, has been blinded to these realities. 
On the one hand, it has clung to the errors and illusions of 
Enlightenment liberalism, which saw an easy harmony of 
interests emerging from every conflict of interests j on the 
other, to a narrow conception of the hierarchies of leadership 
in America's national and international life defending the 
special privileges of the parochial segments of the business 
community or internationally of the nation as a law unto itself. 
Because the wisdom of traditional conservatism has been so 
imperfectly appropriated by American conservatives, it be- 
comes the common property of all those groups, including 
liberals, who seek for greater realism in world affairs. Indeed, 

89 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

liberalism stripped of its Utopian errors appears at this point 
to offer the best hope, partly because liberal realists like 
George F. Kennan, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Hans J. Morgen- 
thau have been the most diligent in seeking a coherent, rele- 
vant, and intelligible theory of international politics. 

Yet liberals in public life continue to utter the old cliches, 
to prate about principle and decry pragmatism, and to act 
imprudently in the face of harsh realities, as in recent pro- 
posals for unilateral arms reduction or the abdication of 
responsibility for a sound American foreign policy by leaving 
the initiative to the United Nations. There is no apparent 
reason why the errors of the Enlightenment should continue 
to bedevil much of American liberalism, particularly if liberals 
were to accept the wise doctrines of a group like the Policy 
Planning Staff. However, the evidence that this has or is 
likely to take place is not convincing. Until the United States 
becomes the home of a realistic liberalism, especially in foreign 
affairs, the role of an enlightened conservatism and a respon- 
sible liberalism will continue to be essential. Whatever their 
limits, we have in their interplay and tension the best hope 
for America. 



90 



CHAPTER 3 

STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS: WRITTEN 
AND LIVING THEORIES 



There is no substitute for one man's mind grasping 
the nation's interests, for one man's judgment deciding 
how these interests can best be served, for one man's 
will seeing the decision through, for one man's soul feel- 
ing the anguish and exhilaration of great deeds. — hans 

J. MORGENTHAU 



The periods in American history when learned men and 
public leaders effectively join hands to face current problems 
are comparatively few and far between. This in spite of the 
fact that theorists and practitioners frequently exhort one 
another to cooperate and give aid that is sorely needed. The 
nature of the demands they lay upon one another, however, 
are often beyond reach. Theorists would like full blueprints 
of the various elements in the process by which decisions have 
been made. Practitioners complain that learned men find it 
difficult to think and act within the limits prescribed by real 
situations. Moreover, "the academic approach to policy prob- 
lems is apt to exhibit two tendencies. The first is a tendency 
toward abstraction and generalization j the second is a tendency 
to emphasize historical analogies."^ Decision-makers grow im- 
patient with the judicious and painstaking habits of the scholar, 
his quest for knowledge of both past and present, and the 
luxury of reserving judgment in which he indulges. 

Nothing is served by obscuring the deep gulf which sepa- 
rates the man of thought from the man of action. Both sides 

^ Paul H. Nitze, "The Role of the Learned Man in Government," in 
The Review of Politics., Vol. 20, No. 3 (July 1958), p. 279. 

91 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

inherit and come to defend a professional suspicion if not 
contempt of one another. In retirement, Dean Acheson can 
speak with deference and genuine respect of certain scholars 
in international relations. In his days as Secretary of State, 
however, he expressed doubt concerning help from any "aca- 
demically or analytically minded men." It is reported that 
"Mr. Dulles says that he would welcome assistance from those 
who have more knowledge of and experience with the foreign 
policy problems which the world now faces than he has, but 
he asks where are such people.'" The wide gulf between 
thinkers and doers is partly temperamental, partly profes- 
sional, and oftentimes the product of a defensive attitude 
resulting from an awareness that each of us after all is mortal. 
Statesmen in general take for granted the importance of 
theory and philosophy. Even the staunchest pragmatist who 
prides himself on playing by ear frequently ends by making 
a philosophy of expediency. Policy-makers speak of "theory 
in action" or "operating concepts" in international affairs. In 
1946 Mr. Dulles observed: "No nation's foreign policy can 
be ascertained merely from what its officials say. More im- 
portant are the philosophy of its leaders and the actual mani- 
festations of that philosophy in what is done."^ Sometimes 
a leader's philosophy remains inarticulated and implicit. It 
remains for the scholar to reconstruct from the leader's words 
and deeds the principles by which he charts his course. Such 
theories are rarely systematic, consistent, or fully coherent 
but because political actors lack fully elaborated doctrines is 
no reason for concluding that they move without direction 
or purpose. For example, Harry S. Truman's actions in for- 
eign policy were rooted primarily in one dominant and over- 
riding conviction. On the strength of the lessons of the inter- 
war period he fervently believed that aggression must be 

^ Ibid., p. 281. 

^ John Foster Dulles, "Thought on Soviet Foreign Policy and What To 
Do about It," Life, Vol. XX, June 3, 1946, p. 113. 

92 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

met by collective action that was immediate and overwhelm- 
ing in effect. The Truman Doctrine and the police action in 
Korea were squarely founded on this principle. 

It is sometimes said that academic advisors continually hark 
back to the analogies of history. The warning is given: 
"Historical analogies have great utility in illuminating com- 
plex situations and in helping one to sort out the significant 
from the merely striking. But action based too closely on 
historical analogies is apt to be sterile and unimaginative."* 
If academic minds alone deserved this warning, the conse- 
quences for national policies would be less far-reaching. In 
actual fact, however, statesmen are more disposed than 
theorists to base their policies on some "grand simplification" 
drawn from a narrow segment of historical experience. Mili- 
tary leaders fight the last war and politicians with their 
penchant for casting things in simple and unambiguous terms 
are forever tempted to view each successive crisis in the 
context of the preceding one. The nature of the communist 
threat is colored by the West's fateful and tragic experience 
with the Nazi threat. "Parleys with Hitler were fruitless j 
talks with the Russians are doomed to fail." "Hitler did not 
keep his promises j neither will Soviet leaders." "The Nazi 
challenge was military in nature; the communist peril must 
also be fundamentally military in character." "Hitler's ambi- 
tion for world domination was unlimited in scope. Commu- 
nists will never rest before they rule the world." The point is 
not that such historical precedents are without truth or rele- 
vance. One tyranny carries many of the marks of others that 
have gone before. But history is too complex, variegated, and 
diverse to cast in a single mold. The precedents for commu- 
nism beyond nazism may be Islam, the "Religious Wars," 
Napoleon, the Crusades, or other revolutionary movements. 
It is shortsighted to look no farther than a single political 
movement. Perhaps this is inevitable for practitioners who 

* Nitze, "Role of the Learned Man," p. 280. 

93 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

merely "dabble" in history and theory. "A wrong theory, an 
oversimplified theory, or a theory applied out of context can 
produce disastrous results."^ Ironically, those who take pride 
in their skepticism over theory and who prefer to prick out a 
policy by the case method are not infrequently most vulnera- 
ble to error. The statesman's theories may be based on hidden 
assumptions and unexamined premises that become frozen 
over time into nearly absolute dogmas of "no entangling 
alliances," "collective security," or "support or opposition to 
the United Nations." Doctrines of this kind may initially be 
propounded to enhance public understanding, but sooner or 
later they evolve into guides to action and eventually substi- 
tutes for flexible foreign policies. 

However, it would be unfair to stop with the suggestion 
that those who shoulder the heavy burdens of responsibility 
may sometimes be entrapped by their too simple theories. So, 
for that matter, are philosophers. Beyond that, the history of 
thought, including thought on international relations, testifies 
that those who face the harsh choices of international life 
often anticipate the insights of the theorists. The quality that 
distinguishes the great statesman from his run-of-the-mill 
contemporary is his capacity for viewing the concrete case in 
terms of the general. He may be compelled by the pressures 
of the moment to treat each problem on its merits, but when 
these demands recede he will have redress whether in apho- 
rism or generalized statement to the underlying theory by 
which he proceeds. Thus, for example, if one wishes to ap- 
praise Dean Acheson's theory of international organization, 
his public statements under fire as he struggled to work out 
acceptable policies for the Korean Crisis or the Berlin Blockade 
are probably too fragmentary, contingent, and incomplete. It 
would also be necessary to examine his views as he drew on 
these experiences to erect a broader conception of the role 

° Paul H. Nitze, "The Implications of Theory for Practice in the Conduct 
of Foreign Affairs," an unpublished paper, p. 2. 

94 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

and limits of the United Nations. A man's writings are more 
likely to provide the schema of his philosophy than his actions 
in the midst of domestic and international political cross-cur- 
rents. This is plainly an alternative that is open to a Churchill 
in greater measure than to many leaders who spend all their 
days in practical affairs. 

I. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY 
AND PUBLIC OPINION 

The real issue raised by statesmanship and theory stems 
from the problems of simultaneously choosing wise foreign 
policies and rallying a people in support of them. The crucial 
public may be the members of a political party, the Congress 
or Parliament, a wider national public, or members of a 
coalition. In each case the problem is one of enlisting consent. 
Sometimes the crisis or challenge is so inescapable, as in war, 
that the public has no alternative but to yield and give sup- 
port. At other times choices are more uncertain. Then the 
task of the leader is to draw together the common interests 
that a majority of people may share. The great mass of people 
can hardly be privy to the narrow choices and careful distinc- 
tions embodied in policy-making. If they are to throw their 
weight behind particular programs, it must be on broader 
grounds. At some point complex decisions must be stated as 
simple choices, difficult issues reduced to a few basic proposi- 
tions, and the questions asked in a way capable of arousing 
emotional responses. Both American and British experience 
provide examples of the bewildering and perplexing nature 
of democratic foreign policy j while the two systems have 
differing institutions and techniques, the problem they face 
is common.^ 

A debate In the House of Commons on February 28, 1945, 
is singularly revealing in this regard. Midway through the 

® I choose the British example for discussion merely because the issue is 
articulated with exceptional clarity in a single parliamentary debate. 

95 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

debate, a younger Conservative member rose to deliver a 
speech on the Polish settlement negotiated by Prime Minister 
Churchill, President Roosevelt, and Premier Stalin at the 
Crimean Conference and incorporated into the so-called Yalta 
agreements. The debate had ranged far and wide as some 
members denounced the Prime Minister for yielding too 
much to the Russians while others condemned him for claim- 
ing too much for Britain's postwar role. The member, Captain 
Peter Thorneycroft, who in 1951 was to become the youngest 
member of Prime Minister Churchill's Cabinet and in 1957 
was named Chancellor of the Exchequer, chose the occasion 
to cast his specific comments on Yalta in the framework of a 
more general statement on foreign policy which raises the 
central questions with which we must be concerned: 

"I believe the real difficulty in which my hon. Friends find 
themselves is not so much Poland at all. I believe it is in the 
apparent conflict between documents like the Atlantic Charter 
and the facts of the European situation. We talk to two dif- 
ferent people in two different languages. In the East we are 
talking to the Russians. The Russians are nothing if not 
realists. ... I believe that the Russian Foreign Office is 
perhaps more in tune with the advice which would be given 
to the Tsars than to the potentates of the twentieth century. 
In such circumstances we talk in language not far removed 
from power politics. In the West we are faced by the Ameri- 
cans. They are nothing if not idealists. To them we talk in the 
polite language of the Atlantic Charter. Somehow or other 
we have to marry those two schools of thought. If I could 
persuade the Americans, particularly in the Middle West, to 
have something of the Russian realism in international rela- 
tions, and persuade the Russians to have the idealism that 
exists on the East Coast of America, we might get somewhere, 
but let us face the fact that the process will be a long and 
painful one. You do not move suddenly from a world in 
which there are international rivalries into a world where 

96 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

there is international cooperation. It is the world we are in 
that the Prime Minister has to deal with. We could not come 
back from Yalta with a blueprint for a new Utopia. . . . The 
rights of small nations are safeguarded by a mixture of 
diplomacy and military power.'" 

Neither Captain Thorneycroft's views on Poland nor his 
discourse on the Russian and American antagonists in the 
Cold War were acceptable to the "hon. Friends" that day. 
Indeed, we do well to remember that the debate over Yalta 
was not initiated by Republicans in the American political 
camxpaign in 1952. It was evident as early as 1945 that the 
moral and political ambiguities of the agreements were bound 
to inflame public opinion and supply ammunition to contend- 
ing political groups. Then as now Yalta was a clear question of 
right or wrong, good or evil, black or white. Few were per- 
suaded by what Captain Thorneycroft had to say. Realistic 
appraisals of the limits of action in foreign policy are poor 
competitors in the market-place of ideas. Whereas such ap- 
praisals are nearly always complicated, tentative, easily dis- 
torted, and uncertain, the recipes and formulas of demagogues 
and Utopians are bold and militant, emotional and, for des- 
perate souls, almost always satisfying. What is of course 
obvious should be added: namely, that all the failures and 
difficulties of foreign policy do not originate with the people. 
Bad foreign policy may as often result from bad driving as 
from backseat political driving. One is reminded of the car- 
toon with the caption that reads: "How often have I told you 
children not to bother daddy when he is passing on a turn." 

How is the statesman to deal with this dilemma? He can 
offer his policies on their merits and trust that the people will 
support them, or he can lay bare the forces compelling him 
to follow a fateful course. More often, however, he is driven 
to couch his actions in more popular and palatable appeals. 

"^Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Commons, Vol. 408, 
February 28, 1945, pp. 1458-59. 

97 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

In coming to terms with a public that is resistant to every 
harsh and cynical claim, he oftentimes must have recourse to 
new modes of popular diplomacy which in earlier eras were 
largely unknown and unnecessary. 

If anyone has been immune to the ravages and tyranny of 
majority rule, with its heavy demands for simple slogans and 
glittering solutions in foreign affairs, it should have been 
Mr. Winston S. Churchill. His approach to international rela- 
tions is reflected in the statement we have noted of his disciple 
Peter Thorneycroft5 in a sense, Churchill is the last and, as 
such, perhaps the noblest of the classical conservative states- 
men. More frequently than one can count he has espoused 
unpopular causes or championed programs that were out of 
tune with public sentiments. He repeatedly warned a proud 
people that Britain would have to be subordinate to the 
United States in the postwar world. He challenged and criti- 
cized the diplomatic make-believe that sought for peace in 
pious sentiments about the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing 
war or the cozy and complacent idolatry of words and phrases 
embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations or the 
United Nations Charter. In the conduct of war he promised 
only "blood, sweat, and tears." 

However, when the acceptance of crucial policies for which 
he was responsible hinged on skill and tactics, he hesitated 
not a moment in appealing to the public and Parliament in 
terms best calculated to win their acclaim. There is no better 
example of this than the Yalta settlement. Here we can ob- 
serve, stripped of all side issues or extraneous points, the 
simple and inescapable clash between the claims of political 
realism and public support. This crisis illustrates the dual 
nature of the problem of explaining a foreign policy based on 
an existing situation of fact, namely, the prevailing strength 
of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe resulting from the 
Red Army's advance to the Elbe, and the insistent moral 
demands of a popular assembly. Mr. Churchill's justification 

98 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

of the concessions made to a Russian sphere of influence in 
this area provide a sample of a moralistic formulation of a 
policy whose sole rational defense was rooted in intractable 
political facts. On the other side, the parliamentary debate is 
richly furnished with the counter-arguments of Utopian spokes- 
men who found his idealism too mild and fellow realists who 
were uneasy about his choice of tactics. 

In his opening speech, the Prime Minister endeavored to 
show that Yalta was a settlement grounded in moral principles 
safeguarding the rights of all the parties. He began by point- 
ing out that the Russian claim to the Curzon Line in the east 
had been unchanged. He said: "I have never concealed from 
the House that, personally, I think the Russian claim is just 
and right. If I champion this frontier for Russia, it is not 
because I bow to force. It is because I believe it is the fairest 
division of territory that can in all the circumstances be made 
between the two countries whose history has been so inter- 
mingled."® He added that the Curzon Line had been drawn in 
19 1 9 by an expert commission, on which one of Britain's most 
distinguished diplomats, Sir Eyre Crowe, had served, at a 
time when Russia had few friends among the allies. Finally, 
he examined the Russian seizure of Polish territory and pro- 
pounded the view that: "under the world organization all 
nations great and small, victors and vanquished will be secured 
against aggression by indisputable law and by overwhelming 
international force. The published Crimea Agreement Is not 
a ready-made plan imposed by the great Powers on the Polish 
people. It sets out the agreed views of the three major allies 
on the means whereby their common desire to see a strong, 
free. Independent Poland may be fulfilled in cooperation with 
the Poles themselves, and whereby a Polish government which 
all the United Nations can recognize, may be set up in 
Poland."" 



^ Ibid., Vol. 408, February 27, 1945, p. 1275. 
^ Ibid.y p. 1278. 

99 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

If Mr. Churchill expected to satisfy the House of Commons 
that the Polish settlement was not only necessary but also 
just, he was disappointed. If he expected to allay what The 
Times (of London) has frequently called the hagridden fears 
of the problems of power that possess the more Utopian mem- 
bers of Parliament, his hopes proved short-lived. Sir William 
Beveridge of Berwick upon Tweed, author of the Beveridge 
Plan, responded to the Prime Minister in words of haughty 
contempt: "We have to stick to principle. We have to stick to 
principle in international affairs, and if it happens that one 
cannot both stick to one's friends and stick to principle, one 
must stick to principle; because principles do not change, but 
friends, even if they appear for the moment to be unreasona- 
ble, may change and become reasonable. Opportunism, ap- 
peasement, self-regarding policies, power politics, all lead to 
the grave of all our hopes."^° 

There were other members who asserted that Britain had 
long been the trustee of Poland and therefore was not free 
to yield Poland's rights to Russian power. If Britain were to 
be guided by expediency, she would prove herself no better 
than Nazi Germany. If she yielded to this temptation, World 
War II would have been fought in vain. Commander Sir 
Archibald Southby sought to persuade his wayward colleagues 
to return to the path of virtue when he said: "With much of 
the Yalta Agreement I am in accord, but if our foreign policy 
is to be based upon expediency and not upon principles then 
it is bound to fail, and I cannot in honour express my confi- 
dence in it. ... I hold that there is a greater loyalty than 
that which we owe to any one man, Government or party — 
the loyalty to those fundamental ideals of justice, liberty and 
honour to uphold which we have twice in our lifetime seen 
the British sword drawn."^^ 

The Prime Minister's defense of Yalta came under attack 
from other directions and from other camps. He had been 

''■'^ Ibid., p. 13 15. '^'^ Ibid., p. 1437. 

100 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

challenged in behalf of high principles j now he was held to 
account for the gulf that seemed to separate his lofty pro- 
nouncements and the cruel, stark demands of the balance of 
power wrought by the conduct of the last stages of the war. 
Thorneycroft calmly but firmly reminded his colleagues: "I 
do not regard the Polish settlement as an act of justice. It may 
be right or wrong, it may be wise or foolish, but at any rate 
it is not justice as I understand the term. It is not the sort of 
situation . . . [before] a disinterested body ... in which the 
strength and power of one of the parties is never allowed to 
weigh in the balance. The sooner we recognize that we are 
a long way from that sort of thing happening the better."^^ 

One speaker after another, including those who supported 
the Prime Minister, conceded that Yalta was inevitable. The 
Russians could not be expected to recede from territory that 
they had seized in the last days of the war. But the hypocrisy 
of claiming that this was an act of justice compatible with the 
Atlantic Charter was more than they — or by implication, the 
people — could swallow. It may be useful to quote from a long 
but revealing statement by Lord Dunglass of Lanark: 

"It would be comfortable to believe that relationships 
between different communities of men were always governed 
by reason, but the reality as history reveals it, is that the 
governing principle is that of power. Power has not been 
destroyed in this warj it has been redistributed. It is still 
used. . . . Any settlement at this time must take account of it. 

"I think a valid criticism of the peace settlement of 1919 
was that it allowed too much for the triumph of reason, and 
too little for the fact of power. While all that is true, yet it 
is also true to say that the world can never pass from the old 
order of the rule of force to the new order of the rule of law, 
except by way of a period during which the Great Powers 
themselves are willing, and are seen to be willing, to exercise 
restraint in the use of power. The position in post-war Europe 

^^ Ibid., pp. 1456-57. 

101 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

will be a state of great power and great weakness side by side, 
and that does not lead to stability. One reason why there is 
world concern over the differences between Russia and Poland, 
is because it is the first case, a test case, in the relationship 
between a Great Power wielding great military might and 
her smaller and weaker neighbour.'"^ 

Lord Dunglass concluded: "When the Prime Minister says 
that he accepts this as an act of justice, I must take a funda- 
mentally opposite view. We have dozens of times in our 
history accepted this kind of an arrangement as a fact of 
power."^* 

Then there was a summary statement by Mr. Raikes of 
Essex, South-East, which said of Thorneycroft's speech : "The 
most eloquent speech . . . did not base it on justice} with great 
honesty he said he thought it was an unjust settlement. . . . 
One thing is certain, however great the vote may be today, 
it will not be because they believe that the motion was just. 
Well may the Prime Minister say, like Canning, *Save, oh 
save me, from my candid friends.' "^^ 

The exchanges in this brilliantly instructive debate taken 
together epitomize the problem of foreign policy in a demo- 
cratic state. Policies that are founded on the realities of the 
external world must be translated into terms that appear less 
harsh, strident, and offensive. In preparing the Fulton Speech 
in which he outlined for the West his conception of the 
Soviet threat, Mr. Churchill tells us that he tried to soften 
popular reactions by formulating his propositions in mild, 
mellifluous, guarded, and carefully shaped statements. Yet 
we know how these words, seen now to be true, were received 
at the time. In Britain, Mr. Ernest Bevin, himself a shrewd 
realist but an aspiring politician as well, declared: ". . . as 
atomic energy evolves . . . the necessity of its use as a weapon 
will have disappeared by reason of the new world organiza- 

^^ Ibid., pp. 1304-05. ^^ Ibid., p. 1306. 

^^ Ibid., p. 149 1. 

102 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

tion.'"® Churchill was a kind of Cassandra warning of dangers 
that had been rendered obsolete. In the Soviet Union, Pravda 
assailed him in this way: "He openly proclaims power politics, 
which must be realized by an Anglo-American military al- 
liance. To whom is it not clear that all of this, as a matter of 
fact, means nothing else than the liquidation of the United 
Nations Organization."^^ In the United Nations, the Christian 
Century reported: "No one doubts ... his magnificent cour- 
age . . . but the situation into which the world is now passing 
so swiftly demands more than courage. It requires a contempo- 
rary mind and . . . principles which place people above politics, 
humanity above the vanishing glories of Empire."^® No one 
ought to be surprised, therefore, that Churchill as political 
leader confronted with these attacks at home and abroad 
should wring from the total character of a policy or action 
its moral component. His popular appeals, based more on 
moralisms than realism, have been frequent, as when he said: 
"The British race is not actuated mainly by the hope of 
material gain. ... It is stirred on almost all occasions by 
sentiment and instinct rather than by a program or world 
calculation." Or again: "We seek no territory j we covet no 
oil fields J we demand no bases for the forces of the air or of 
the seas. . . . We do not set ourselves up in rivalry or bigness 
or might with any country in the world."^^ In all these 
phrases, there is more about moral principle and less about 
political necessity, more about ultimate ends and less about 
proximate means. This is the background and the reality that 
underlies the conduct of democratic foreign policy. Practical 
actions must appear more felicitous than they arej prudence 
must be englobed in virtue. It is vulgar and debasing for any 

^^ The Neiv York Times, October 6, 1946, p. i. 

^''Pravda, March 11, 1948, quoted in T/ie Neiv York Times, March 12, 
1946, p. 4. 

18 «^ Future without Churchill," T/ie Christian Century, Vol. LXii, 
January 31, 1945, p. 134. 

"^^Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 407, January 18, 1945, pp. 397-98. 

103 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Western statesman to concede that foreign policy is a com- 
modity that must be marketed and sold, yet the stories even 
of great leaders like Winston Churchill appear to substantiate 
this truth. 

Now let me say a word on institutions and foreign policy. 
While both Britain and America face this problem, they 
appear to deal with it through varied institutions and in 
different ways. At one level, there is substantial agreement 
in the diagnosis and the remedy proposed. The theorists and 
some practitioners in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with 
American writers in singling out as a besetting problem the 
complexities and uncertainties of public diplomacy. None of 
them is prepared to accept the substitution of public relations 
for diplomacy, whether for domestic or international con- 
sumption. Nor, I should hasten to add, do they for one 
moment feel that the price paid for popular influence on 
foreign policy is too great. However, they share a conviction 
that diplomacy in a democracy is a sensitive instrument which 
must be mastered and comprehended before it can serve the 
interests of peace. 

Lord Strang, Permanent Undersecretary of State in the 
Foreign Office from 1 949-1 953, in a series of two talks for 
the British Home Service, discussed precisely this topic of 
"Foreign Policy in a Democracy.'"" A country's foreign policy, 
he defines, as "the purposes or objectives pursued by its 
government in its relations with the governments of other 
states, and the methods adopted by it in order to achieve 
those purposes."^^ He goes on to note that every foreign 
policy is the result of a decision by the government concerned. 
Its machinery and procedures shape the character of the 
decisions. In Britain the linchpin in the decision-making 
apparatus is the Foreign Secretary, dependent on the Foreign 
Office, responsible to the Parliament, and limited by existing 

-" The Listener^ Vol. LVII, No. 1450, January 10, 1957, pp. 47^-5 Vol. 
LVii, No. 1451, January 17, 1957, pp. 92-93. 
2^ Ibid., No. 1450, p. 47. 

104 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

facts. The limiting facts include habit, custom, and permanent 
interests. "No British Foreign Secretary, for example, can 
get away from the fact that Great Britain is a small, densely 
populated island with wide overseas interests, inescapably 
dependent upon foreign trade for the maintenance of its rela- 
tively luxurious standard of living. So there will be, in its 
main lines, a persisting element of sameness in the shaping 
of foreign policy."^^ When there are changes, they usually 
come about gradually in response to a changing environment. 
This environment is a combination of the external and internal 
worlds in which democratic statesmen live and make their 
choices. 

The external world for England has changed since 1900. 
Then and now her first interest has been to deny to any one 
power domination on the European continent. In the nine- 
teenth century Britain pursued this national interest through 
a policy described as "splendid isolation," withholding her 
power to throw it to one side or the other of the scales of the 
balance of power in order to maintain equilibrium. Beginning 
in 1904, when Lord Lansdowne made his famous agreement 
with France to reduce tensions in the disputed colonial areas 
of Egypt, Morocco, and Newfoundland, Britain has moved 
toward increased commitments on the continent. She supported 
France in Morocco in 19 12, working out joint naval arrange- 
ments. By 1 9 14 she was morally and politically, if not legally, 
committed to come to the aid of France. Following World 
War II, the objective threat of a Russia poised on the borders 
of a weak and enfeebled Germany led to the Dunkirk Treaty 
with France and the Low Countries, to NATO, to European 
economic cooperation, and most recently to negotiations for 
a common European market. None of these steps was deliber- 
ately planned J they were brought about progressively under 
the steady whiplash of events, with each step requiring the 
gravest kind of heart-searching. Britain's fundamental objec- 

22 Ibid. 

105 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

tives are essentially unchanged but external developments 
have called for a shift in the means and policies for achiev- 
ing them. 

Similarly, at every step, the interplay between external 
and internal pressures has been decisive. The Foreign Secre- 
tary must seek and respond both to professional and political 
advice. As a politician there are additional considerations he 
must weigh. Increasingly the ordinary men and women, no 
less than their elected representatives, are constrained to influ- 
ence foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary is subject to appeals 
from pressure groups, political and industrial groups such as 
trade unions, party organizations whether central or local, 
the whole gamut of opinion represented by the press and 
the general sentiments of the public which are continually 
being gauged and evaluated, sometimes with questionable 
accuracy, by public opinion polls. The Secretary is a member 
of the government and under the general direction of the 
Prime Minister must conform his policies to government 
policy. At least once a week, he lays before his colleagues in 
the Cabinet matters for their decision and must carry them 
through the force of his argument, the strength of his position, 
or the support of the Prime Minister. If he is weak, has strong 
rivals in the Cabinet, or if Ministers are divided on policy, 
his policies may be amended or sometimes even rejected for 
better or for worse. The most fateful relation of all imposed 
by the machinery of government is that between the Foreign 
Secretary and the Prime Minister. Occasionally Prime Min- 
isters have taken foreign affairs into their own hands or sought 
the counsel of advisers outside the Foreign Office. Sometimes 
the Prime Minister may be wiser than his colleagues in the 
Foreign Office, as may have been true with Winston Churchill. 
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister, isolated from the daily 
intelligence that flows into the Foreign Office from outposts 
abroad, cannot have an intimate knowledge of every shift and 
turn in the external world. Lloyd George and Neville Cham- 

106 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

berlain as Prime Ministers seized the prerogatives of their 
Foreign Secretaries both times without notably happy results. 
The ideal relation is perhaps that which existed between 
Churchill and Eden about which Sir Llewellyn Woodward 
has written: "Mr. Churchill's collaboration with Mr. Eden 
was so frank and sagacious, and his own temperament so little 
inclined to backstairs methods, that there was never any 
question about what might be called a 'double' foreign 
policy."^^ 

Thus in Britain the formation and shaping of foreign 
policy is part of the democratic process. Myriad factors bear 
on the Foreign Secretary and "he must make up his mind 
how far they should be permitted to affect the course he 
thinks would be the best, whether judged professionally, or 
from a cool assessment of the public interest broadly con- 
ceived."^* Whatever these limitations, the authority of the 
executive in Parliament for the formation of foreign policy 
is not seriously questioned. This authority is if anything more 
deeply entrenched with the growth of party discipline, the 
maturity of the British electorate, and the knowledge that 
the overthrowing of the government means general elections 
for all the members. This may suggest one possible source of 
tension between Britain and America, for if in the one execu- 
tive power stands unchallenged and in the other is under 
attack, this can occasion misunderstanding and affect the 
national outlook. 

If it is true that more and more people in the democracies — 
including the United Kingdom — are involved in the actual 
process of making foreign policy, their influence is even 
greater in the control of foreign policy. In Britain there are 
at least three ways in which popular or parliamentary control 
is exerted on foreign policy. The first relates to treaties. In 
contrast to the American system, where Congress has the 



23 Ibid., p. 69. 

^^ Ibid., No. 1451, p. 92 



107 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

power to ratify treaties, parliamentary approval of treaties is 
required only where legislation is needed. The negotiation 
and ratification of treaties is the responsibility of the Crown, 
but it is customary when treaties are signed to lay them on the 
table in the House of Commons for twenty-one days. If, but 
only if a debate is called for, the sense of the House can be 
taken. A second control stems from a more general type of 
debate either on foreign policy as a whole or on some aspect 
that has attracted unusual public interest. The opposition may 
demand the debate or the government can take the initiative. 
Whether such a debate causes the government to modify the 
substance or adjust the formulation of its policies, it can have 
a restraining influence. Woodrow Wilson caught the sense 
of these debates when he observed: "You dare not lay a bad 
case before mankind." A third point of contact between the 
government and Parliament comes in question periods. 
Kenneth Younger, former Minister of State for Foreign 
Affairs, characterized this process in the following words: 
"At each stage the policy is open to attack, and Ministers are 
subjected to every kind of comment and criticism. From the 
Minister's point of view, ill-informed or even stupid questions 
may be quite as informative as those of the experts, and the 
murmurs of approval or protest evoked from different sectors 
of opinion in the House can be as significant as anything that 
is said.'"^ 

Through possible discussions of treaties, general debates, 
and parliamentary questions, to say nothing of its control of 
the purse. Parliament exerts restraints and controls upon a 
foreign policy that has already evolved and developed — this 
despite its lack of a specific constitutional function comparable 
to the U.S. Senate. Even though a government cannot as 
readily be overthrown as, say, in France, the prospect of 
eventual defeat in an election makes it sensitive to public reac- 
tions, although not as sensitive as in France or the United 

23 Ibid. 

108 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

States. In recent years, the governments of Prime Ministers 
Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, and Anthony Eden have 
all clung to unpopular policies in the face of substantial oppo- 
sition, in the hope that history would prove them right. It has 
been suggested that: "A government may fairly claim that 
it can be in a better position to judge the national interest 
than the public itself ... it can hope that public doubts will 
respond in time to repeated and authoritative expositions of 
the government's casej or, best of all, that events themselves 
will vindicate the policy.'"® 

The American approach to this problem is as many-sided 
as most American reactions to the problems that trouble and 
haunt us. Underlying popular thinking, however, is a native 
and deep-seated suspicion of diplomacy. A leading study of 
Anglo-American relations begins: "Clemenceau once said that 
war is too important an activity to be left to the soldier. Peace, 
surely, is too vital to be entrusted solely to the diplomat."^'' 
It is generally assumed that foreign policy is as much the 
responsibility of the people or the Congress as it is of the 
President and the Department of State. We read in a respon- 
sible study: "The makers of [foreign] policy are rather the 
legislators . . . , civil servants, newspaper editors and col- 
umnists who devote more or less continuous study to these 
matters. . . ."^^ Some Americans are even disposed to take 
umbrage when the suggestion is made that democratic diplo- 
macy has its difficulties. They reply, What about the nazis 
or the communists. Would you prefer their systems of diplo- 
macy? This misses the point rather badly, for it is as if one 
would ask a marriage counselor if he is against marriage or a 
minister discussing human frailties if he is in favor of sin. 
Nor will it do to dismiss anyone who grapples with these 

^^ Ibid.y p. 93. 

2^ Henry L. Roberts and Paul A. Wilson, Britain and the United, States: 
Problems in Cooferation (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), p. vi. 
^^ Ibid.f p, xi. 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

issues as a pessimist who is defeatist and faint of heart about 
the future of democracy. 

Nonetheless, both apologists and critics are frequently wide 
of the mark in their views of the American system. Despite 
the complexity of our constitutional arrangements for the 
conduct of foreign relations, with its division of powers be- 
tween the Congress and the President, it is noteworthy that 
a good deal of flexibility and more continuity than might be 
expected has resulted. When the major foreign policy deci- 
sions of the last decade pass in review, the degree of consensus 
between the two branches of government is little short of 
astounding. The United Nations Charter, which repudiated 
the broad lines of policy of several generations of American 
policy-makers, was approved overwhelmingly, the North At- 
lantic Treaty Organization was ratified by a vote of 82 to 13, 
and the agreement with the federal government of Germany 
was accepted by the Senate 77 to 5. Even policies affecting 
troubled and unsettled regions like the Far East and Middle 
East, where nothing approaching a really promising solution 
was possible, have ultimately been accepted with less ran- 
corous political debate than political parties might have in- 
dulged themselves. 

It would serve no purpose, however, to conceal the fact 
that one source of tension between Britain and America 
inheres in constitutional and procedural differences. British 
leaders complain that consultation is difficult if not impossible 
with this country. The process of rallying a consensus in our 
vast sprawling continent requires us to say things that we 
understand but that mislead and confound outsiders. Whereas 
British foreign policy generally speaks with one voice, the 
cacophony of American statements is more like a symphony 
orchestra playing in discordance as often as in harmony. It is 
never quite clear to what extent American negotiators can 
commit their government. No one can say how greatly 
arrangements entered into with American executives may be 

no 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

whittled down in practice. It is puzzling for the outsider at 
any one time to know where a policy decision rests in the 
American system. The crucial difference between America 
and Britain resides in the power of a British sovereign on 
advice of ministers, to declare war and make treaties while in 
the United States the war power theoretically falls to Con- 
gress and treaties must be concluded by the President with 
the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate present and 
voting. In practice, the consequences of these differences are 
less than might be assumed, for the Senate can no longer with 
fairness be called the "graveyard of treaties." Executive agree- 
ments to an ever-increasing degree provide an alternative to 
the extended process of seeing an agreement through the 
Senate. Legislative action requiring simple majorities is an- 
other practical device for speeding decision, say, on the Mar- 
shall Plan and mutual security assistance. The two-thirds 
requirement with all its difficulties rarely impedes necessary 
action in foreign policy. It has, however, caused negotiators 
to proceed with care in making commitments in areas that 
failed to command broad public agreement. 

The nub of the problem in our present discussion has more 
to do with appearances than with performance. For foreign 
observers our vast and sprawling governmental arrangements 
remain a continual source of bewilderment and dismay, of 
nagging fears and doubts. They note that within a fortnight 
the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense 
may define national policies for vital problems in conflicting 
and contradictory terms. In the absence of party discipline, 
prominent congressional leaders — indeed the government's 
principal leader in Congress — may speak in opposition to the 
President's announced policy, and in some cases, as with the 
threat of sanctions against Israel for its so-called aggression 
against Egypt in the autumn of 1956, apparently succeed in 
overturning it. An administration must find its support in 
ever-changing coalitions and the task of its spokesman in 

111 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Congress is less that of leader than sheepdog tirelessly round- 
ing up wayward and uncertain followers. The Secretary of 
State appears before the Congress not as the Foreign Secretary 
with the full weight of the Cabinet and the government 
behind him but more as a servant, if not a suppliant, of the 
most representative branch of the government. Administrative 
spokesmen appear before congressional committees not to 
debate with the opposition, as in Parliament, but as witnesses 
to be examined and cross-examined. Sometimes this relation 
may be reasonable and moderate, depending on the temper 
and influence of the committee chairman or the skill of the 
Assistant Secretary for Congressional Liaison, but again the 
principal architect of American foreign policy may be required 
to come hat in hand for day after day of relentless and 
rancorous questioning. We are told that Secretary Dulles 
resolved at all costs to avoid the error of his predecessor 
Dean Acheson. He was determined that his congressional 
relations not deteriorate, for he believed that this had caused 
Mr. Acheson's undoing. Thus he early sought to protect his 
flanks in Congress through agreements and concessions to 
conservative Republicans. Yet his early successes were to prove 
a pyrrhic victory, and they reveal the true nature of an almost 
impossible task, for these gestures and pronouncements con- 
trived to placate the Right served only to alienate allies abroad 
and more liberal supporters at home. Finally, the Secretary 
is not master even in his own house. Postwar foreign relations 
have resulted in a whole network of important executive 
agencies, largely independent of the Department of State. 
Most of them have their own missions in foreign capitals 
alongside but separate from traditional diplomatic missions. 
The Economic Cooperation Administration and the Mutual 
Security Agency speak in the name of American foreign policy 
but without strong leading strings from the seat of authority, 
the State Department. There has even been a separate agency 
responsible to the President and not the Secretary for dealing 
with disarmament under Harold Stassen. 

112 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

Thus the American system, while it has worked surprisingly 
well in practice, continues to confuse and confound those for 
whom it must ever remain an alien system. Before dismissing 
their reactions as merely perverse and wrong-headed, we are 
perhaps well-advised to recall our own uncertainties about 
those institutions with which we are really quite familiar, 
including the British parliamentary system. 

II. THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN PHILOSOPHIES 
ON FOREIGN POLICY AND THE PUBLIC 

The tensions that result from differences between American 
and British institutions are less pervasive, intractable, and 
significant than the conflicts of philosophy. America and 
Britain, which share a common heritage of legal and political 
ideas, are at odds in their approach to foreign relations. Their 
troubles arise partly because the principles on which they act 
are not clear to one another. Oliver Franks, after completing 
his years as Ambassador to the United States, wrote: "If I 
had to state what I thought the most prevalent single cause 
of misunderstanding and suspicion between the United States 
and Britain, I should name the failure to communicate the 
assumptions of a proposal."^^ From socialists like Ernest Bevin 
or Denis Healey on the Left to conservatives like Captain 
Thorneycroft and Winston Churchill on the Right, one notes 
a more or less consistent outlook on the limits and possibilities 
of foreign policy. Indeed it is possible, and I hope to show that 
representatives of other British Commonwealth countries 
follow in substantial measure the broad outlines of this ap- 
proach. What are the component elements in the British way 
of thinking about foreign policy? Can we describe it in general 
terms, recognizing the many exceptions? I believe the chances 
are good enough to warrant a try and I should like to suggest 

29 Oliver S. Franks, Britain and the Tide of World Affairs: The BBC 
Reith Lectures, igs4 (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 34-35- 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

that there are four pillars that undergird the British outlook 
and that are fundamental to understanding this approach. 

First, the British outlook is more disposed than the Ameri- 
can one, perhaps because of the greater continuity of British 
experience, to seek the objective historical roots of a problem 
and to see foreign policies as the means of coping with prob- 
lems that are never entirely novel or unique. Lester B. 
Pearson, Nobel laureate, former Secretary of State for External 
Affairs of Canada and former President of the United Na- 
tions Assembly, has warned that "if current opinions and 
popular prejudices are not to impose themselves with relent- 
less force on our minds, we must judge them in the light of 
historical knowledge and historical experience, and of the 
truths that have been tested by such experience.'"" The chief 
reason for viewing our problems in their historical setting is 
that they are in one sense the same problems with which men 
have grappled before. Insecurity, ambition, expansion, and the 
search for peace and order are timeless issues that loom up 
again and again. "Though the scale of our political problems 
has increased, and the stakes have mounted so high that they 
may involve survival for the human race, the essential char- 
acter of those problems is not new.'"^ Men and states have 
confronted one another in the past across geography that does 
not change, embracing values and interests that sometimes 
persist for generations. 

The consequence of such an approach for foreign policy 
has been to put stress on the inevitability and necessity of 
continuity in a nation's course of action in world affairs. 
Moreover, continuity is something more than a thing of the 
spirit. It takes root in objective material facts. One group in 
British life has seen continuity in the doctrines of a political 
party and has maintained that the British socialist movement 

^° Lester B. Pearson, Democracy in World Politics (Princeton University 
Press, 1955), p. V. 
3^ Ibid.^ pp. 3-4. 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

had an unbroken record on foreign policy from its formation 
at the beginning of the century midway through the century. 
Party intellectuals like Harold Laski and Leonard Woolf 
trumpeted the existence of a distinctively socialist approach 
to foreign policy whose only continuity would be with historic 
socialist doctrines, not with British experience. Today most 
objective historians, looking at the actual policies of the 
socialist government from July 1945 through the end of 
1 95 1 as distinct from the echoes of party pronouncements, 
find striking continuities with the programs of Winston 
Churchill and his predecessors. Under Ernest Bevin in par- 
ticular, "the continuity of British foreign policy prevailed 
because British interests remained the same and the suspicion 
of state for state survived.'"^ The diplomatic performance of 
the labor government was completely at odds with party 
proclamations about a distinctively socialist foreign policy. In 
place of its earlier pious commitments to a new world order 
free of balance of power politics, militarism, and imperialism 
in which Left would speak to Left in Britain and Russia, the 
labor government, once in office, abandoned this naively 
benevolent way of thinking for a firm and realistic postwar 
policy that took account of the threats to historic British 
interests. Ernest Bevin and Clement Attlee, who had shared 
responsibility in wartime for the decisions of the coalition 
government, rallied the Labour Party to a policy that ran 
counter to much of the party's ideology and tradition. Bevin 
in particular was tireless in his efforts to instruct labor mem- 
bers that "revolutions do not change geography, and revo- 
lutions do not change geographical needs. '"^ More recently 
it is striking that laborite intellectuals like Denis Healey have 
sought to reformulate socialist theories to make them accord 
with the experiences of this period. He declares : "Because the 

^^ M. A. Fitzsimons, T/ie Foreign Policy of the British Labour 
Government^ igjf§-£i (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame 
Press, 1953), p. 179. 

^Ubid., p. 26. 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Party as a whole lacks any systematic theory of world affairs, 
it has too often fallen victim to the besetting sin of all pro- 
gressive movements — utopianism. In particular it tends to 
discount the power element in politics, seeing it as a specific 
evil of the existing system rather than a generic characteristic 
of politics as such.'"* Its shortcomings, Healey insists, arise 
largely because it "has always been more alive to change in 
world affairs than to continuity.'"^ "Though war is at least 
3,000 years older than capitalism, many socialists believe that 
capitalism is the only cause of war, and that therefore the 
Soviet Union could not commit aggression because it has a 
'socialist' economy. Others maintain that the only serious 
danger of war springs from disparities between the living 
standards of the peoples j yet it is difficult to find a single war 
in modern times which was caused primarily by such dis- 
parities."^^ Healey's criticism of the Labor Party is primarily 
for its lack of a sense of history. If politics and interests are 
permanent rather than transient, any party will have to accept 
Britain's historic responsibilities, their true configuration, and 
their continuity with important changes in the present. 

This commitment to a historical perspective also affects the 
estimates that are made of other states. For example, the 
British outlook has tended to assume that traditional Russian 
aims have remained broadly the same for several centuries. 
As a great land-locked empire, Russia has pushed out in a 
multi-pronged expansionist drive for "windows to the West." 
Toward the southwest its thrust has been into the Balkans, 
reaching out especially for control of the Bosphorus and the 
Dardanelles. Another drive has aimed at filling the void left 
by the contracting remains of the Ottoman Empire. To the 
southeast it has sought influence in Persia and Afghanistan 
and, to the east, control in Outer Mongolia and the Maritime 

^* R. H. S. Grossman, et al., T/ie Neiv Fabian Essays (New York: 
Frederick A. Praeger, 1952), pp. 161-62. 

^^Ibid.y p. 162. ^^Ibid.y p. 163. 

116 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

Provinces. The Baltic States have been of concern both to 
czars and bolsheviks and the denial of Poland to the antagonist 
has been "a matter of life and death." 

Recognition of historic Russian objectives — or, for that 
matter, the goals of any state — shapes the approach of states- 
men and diplomats to concrete problems. Mr. Churchill, for 
example, maintained both privately and publicly that Soviet 
interests would have to be recognized. In wartime associations 
with Premier Stalin, the British Prime Minister repeatedly 
gave assurances that the West would not tolerate a Polish 
government unfriendly to the Soviet Union. Following the 
joint Anglo-Soviet declaration at Yalta, Churchill explained: 
"The Poles will have their future in their own hands, with 
the single limitation that they must honestly follow, in 
harmony with their allies, a policy friendly to Russia. This 
is surely reasonable.'"^ China's conduct in the postwar world 
was interpreted in its historical context by another British 
statesman, Woodrow Wyatt, who declared in 1950: "I think 
that the Chinese are acting, in part, on the basis of their 
traditional expansionist attitude toward surrounding coun- 
tries. It has long been a policy of China to expand into other 
countries in the South and Southeast. . . ."^^ This devotion to 
history as the informing basis for an understanding of inter- 
national politics has prompted the British to be keenly sensi- 
tive to any encroachment by a great power into an area in 
which its historic ambitions have long been kept in check. 
The most recent example is the Middle Eastern crisis and, 
with its own decline of national power, British promptings of 
the United States to resist expansion. 

Second, Britain and the Commonwealth have had more 
than their share of policy-makers who justify actions in foreign 
affairs on grounds of the realities more than as noble ideals 
or aspirations. Quite obviously there are many statesmen and 

^''Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 408, February 27, 1945, p. 1280. 
^^ Ibid., Vol. 481, November 30, 1950, p. 1339. 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

countless situations that offer the adverse case. Mr. Healey 
has said of the Labor Party, "at worst it is so little conscious 
of Britain's national interests that its attention can be attracted 
to world affairs only by high-flown formulas which quickly 
lose their relevance."^^ We have also the conservative exam- 
ple with which we began this discourse and we think of the 
promises of Chamberlain, Baldwin, and Gladstone. However, 
in a speech at Dacca on December 9, 1956, that stamped him 
as one of Asia's most perceptive leaders, the then Prime 
Minister of Pakistan, Mr. H. S. Suhrawardy, warned: "Cer- 
tainly the foreign policy of every country has got to be 
extremely practical and realistic. It cannot be based on senti- 
ment." The current realities for Pakistan in the case of Egypt 
are rather instructive. On the one hand, Pakistan with the 
rest of Asia condemned the Franco-British-Israeli attack on 
Egypt, although Suhrawardy was unwilling to call it aggres- 
sion. On the other side he noted: "I find, judging from all 
the sentiments of the people here, that certain things which 
unfortunately Egypt has done have rather shaken our faith 
and made us pause a little and become a little more wise in 
the precipitancy of our actions." It is fair to suggest that 
Egypt's support of India on Kashmir and its indifference to 
the need of Pakistan representation in Cairo were among the 
realities that prompted this reaction and along with Common- 
wealth ties tempered Pakistan's moral condemnation of the 
West. This speech carries realism into other areas and prob- 
lems and its candor would be remarkable in any free country. 
On democracy and foreign policy, Suhrawardy observed: "It 
is not usual ... to speak on foreign policy at a public gathering 
and as a matter of fact I shall be very discreet on many points 
and will have to gloss over many things and also to keep back 
from you many matters which obviously influence your gov- 
ernment in arriving at a certain policy regarding foreign 
affairs." On the question of total as against limited war: 

^^ Grossman, Neiv Fabian Essays, p. 162. 

118 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

"There can be local wars with conventional weapons and we 
have seen that there have been local wars in which the two 
blocs have been indirectly drawn in but have refrained from 
directly attacking each other." And on neutrality: "Now we 
know that, so far as neutrality in peace is concerned, our coun- 
try has very little chance of remaining neutral, if it is to the 
advantage of a big country to overrun it for tactical and 
strategic reasons. As I have already pointed out, on more 
than one occasion, that when Germany wanted to attack France 
it did not consider at all whether Holland or Belgium was 
neutral. It chose to overrun them in order to attack France 
and turn the Maginot Line. Hence, by remaining neutral you 
do not escape the chance of being attacked." 

We began our discussion with the example of Winston 
Churchill's defense of the Yalta agreements, but I would 
mislead you by leaving an impression that Churchill was prone 
to justify foreign policy solely in moralistic terms. We recall 
his statement that: "Foreign policy is not a game, nor is it 
an academic question, and . . . not an ideological question. . . . 
Foreign policy is in fact a method of protecting our own 
interests and saving our own people from the threat of another 
war, and it is against that criterion that the foreign policy of 
any government has to be measured."*" The problems that 
face a nation that would preserve its national security call for 
flexibility in the choice of alternatives. It may be said of 
foreign policy as of war: "The best plan of acquiring flexibility 
is to have three or four plans for all the probable contingen- 
cies, all worked out with the utmost detail. Then it is much 
easier to switch from one to the other as and where the cat 
jumps."*^ These alternatives are never wholly satisfying, and 
they conflict with one another in various ways. One day 
Britain opposes Spain, say, for membership in the United 

^'^Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 427, October 23, 1946, p. 1706. 
*i Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: Closing the Ring, 
Vol. V (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 195 1), p. 162. 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Nations J later it seeks for itself and others diplomatic rela- 
tions with the same country. In one context, the Soviet Union 
is the threat, but, with the rise of the Nazis, Churchill said 
bluntly he would make a pact with the devil himself to stop 
Germany's expansion. Policies like these must be justified not 
in absolute but practical terms, as when Churchill on October 
1 8, 1 95 1, defended Britain's program in the Middle East by 
saying: "Our own self-interest demands that we take cog- 
nizance of the Muslim world, its legitimate aspirations, and 
try to help out."*^ 

A third quality of Britain's approach is a characteristic con- 
ception of the function and scope of international institutions. 
For the overwhelming majority of British statesmen the 
United Nations has been a forum for discussion and negotia- 
tion. It has rarely been conceived of as a law-making or law- 
enforcing body. By claiming too much for its authority, the 
United Nations risks discrediting the very idea of international 
order. Its possibilities for private or quiet diplomacy are as 
great as its role for parliamentary or public diplomacy. 
According to this conception, the time is not yet ripe for 
genuine legislation or the application of sanctions to compel 
action by this international body, but there are numerous 
activities in which it can fruitfully and effectively engage. The 
corollary of this view is the recognition that a multitude of 
diplomatic activities can be carried on outside the United Na- 
tions and indeed the charter urges members to seek first an 
adjustment of their conflicts before bringing them into United 
Nations. "The development of common interests or the 
establishment of a stable power pattern must precede and not 
follow the creation of rigid legal or institutional forms."^^ 

Moreover, there is less disposition among British statesmen 
to equate the moral law and United Nations resolutions. 
Rather than conceiving the United Nations as somehow the 

*^ The Times (London), October 19, 1951, p. 5. 
*^ Grossman, Neiv Fabian Essays, p. 170. 

120 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

embodiment of moral virtues, thus confusing positive and 
natural law, the British prefer to see it as a piece of political 
machinery whose decisions are an outcome of the cut and 
thrust among national delegations interacting with one 
another. 

Additionally, other international institutions carry on their 
world programs and the international system so-called is a 
pyramid with the United Nations at the top. Denis Healey 
suggests that nations might "create regional institutions link- 
ing countries which are likely to have a continuing common 
interest however the major changes in the world develop."** 
If world politics calls for anything, it is for restraints on power 
and the host of international institutions that have a purpose 
to serve is striking. In the future one Britisher predicts: 
". . . the adjustment of national differences by negotiation and 
compromise will become more urgent than the construction 
of international institutions or the execution of moral blue- 
prints."*^ In Europe, particularly, Britain will have a more 
important role to play. 

Fourth, the hallmark of Britain's foreign policy is its self- 
conscious pragmatism, its acknowledged acceptance of pallia- 
tives when fundamental solutions appear beyond reach, and 
its emphasis on compromise and trial and error. How often 
does one read the injunction, "We should look round in our 
empirical fashion for ways of meeting our problem." British 
pragmatism has run counter to the American disposition to 
declare its intentions by drawing a line and making it clear 
to friend and foe alike that aggression across this line will be 
resisted, if necessary by war. We say this prevents a miscalcu- 
lation such as brought on World War I. A British diplomatist 
has commented: This "does not come so naturally to us. We 
prefer to deal with events as they arise and not be committed 
by answering hypothetical questions."*^ Some of the techniques 

*'^ Ibid., p. 173. *^ Ibid., p. 179. 

*^ Franks, Britain and the Tide of World Affairs, p. 33. 

121 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

of policy promise limited successes at best. "There are such 
things as the neutralized zone or buffer, which has been tried 
by land in Korea, and might perhaps usefully be attempted 
elsewhere on land or water. There are cease-fire, truce and 
stand-still arrangements, and agreements not to use force in 
a given situation."*^ In Lester Pearson's view, "Wise men 
should not scorn devices or expedients of this kind which can 
gain time for more fundamental solutions to mature. . . ."** 
Probably this outlook has its origins in the limits of Britain's 
or Canada's power, itself encouraging prudence, patience, and 
accommodation. Not by accident Pearson and others in this 
tradition have been untiring in urging this approach in and 
outside the United Nations. They have been opposed to 
proclamations that were founded on absolutes, including abso- 
lute force. Massive retaliation is hardly a congenial doctrine 
for this school of thought. "There is something very frighten- 
ing about the idea of playing 'all or nothing' with any kind 
of weapon." "Except in the event of a reciprocal spasm of 
mutual annihilation, the free world's force should be used 
only for limited political objectives, of which the chief will be 
to deter aggression j or if it breaks out, to localize it, defeat 
it and prepare the way for a peace settlement. This is some- 
thing different from the doctrine of massive retaliation. It is 
less a matter of punishing the aggressor than of defending 
the area of freedom and preventing another conflict."*® This 
is pragmatism in foreign affairs, pragmatism which in recent 
years has had to take for granted accommodation, retreat, the 
severe limits of British power. 

The American outlook, like the British, is a product of 
national character and tradition. Denis W. Brogan, comparing 
the present-day American scene to the America he encountered 
in 1925 for the first time, writes: "Compared with the Euro- 
pean, the American is still optimistic, cheerful, energetic — 
convinced that if not all is for the best in the best of all pos- 

*'^ Pearson, Democracy, p. 19. ^^ Ibid., p. 19. ^^ Ibid.., pp. 33-34. 

122 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

sible countries, it is on the way to becoming so."°° This has 
colored the American attitude toward international institu- 
tions and toward prospects of a brave new world. If we seek 
for the roots of this viewpoint, we are likely to find them in 
the confluence of two profound intellectual forces : the French 
enlightenment and sectarian Christian perfectionism. These 
attitudes fed on successive milestones in American history 
that seemed to confirm, embody, and establish their truth. 
The American Revolution became the national epic which 
vindicated the heroic properties of reason and virtue. It estab- 
lished God's American Israel. These heroic origins of the 
American Republic signified more than the birth of a new 
state j they made possible a new way of life in which freedom 
and truth reigned supreme. The American Revolution is the 
background against which the future of all colonial peoples 
are judged. The tension that grew up between Churchill and 
Roosevelt at the end of World War II on the question of 
colonialism and empire had its roots in the influence that the 
Revolution exerted on their respective world-views. In this 
country we have been prone to feel that enslaved peoples 
everywhere can and should take the course we chose in 1776, 
while the British see the evolution of freedom more in the 
image of members of the British Commonwealth. Another 
milestone, incidentally, is the American intervention in 191 7, 
which tipped the scales in favor of the allied powers. The 
British viewed this action in the light of the eighteenth or 
nineteenth century as a measure to restore equilibrium to 
Europe. The American conception preferred to view it as the 
action of the self-conscious saviour of mankind. 

Down to the present day, rationalism and perfectionism 
are the well-spring from which our proclamations on foreign 
policy take their strength. We are offended to think that the 
aims of a foreign policy are limited, that the object of war is 
not victory but specified political objectives, that a balance of 

^'^ Harfer's Magazine, Vol. 214, No. 1281, February 1957, p. 27. 

123 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

power and balance of terror have become the deterrents of 
warfare, that if conflict breaks out our first interest should be 
in localizing and containing it, that we should think less about 
punishing an aggressor and more about preventing new con- 
flicts, and that Communist strategy when it seeks to exploit 
our "contradictions" may, though uttering another Marxist 
cliche, point to the hidden source of our problems with other 
parts of the world. Foreign policy is only rarely justified in 
terms of the imperatives of national existence, even when its 
foundations are consciously and deliberately based on them. 
"It is a very perilous thing," President Wilson declared in an 
address at Mobile on October 27, 19 13, "to determine the 
foreign policy of a nation in the terms of material interest. . . . 
We dare not turn from the principle that morality and not 
expediency is the thing that must guide us, and that we will 
never condone iniquity because it is most convenient to do 
so."^^ It would be degrading to our own people and to peoples 
in other lands to confess the ambiguities of our actions. Thus 
the Truman Doctrine of March 12, 1957, which was a rational 
and expedient act designed to replace British with American 
power in central Europe, was presented as the defense of free 
democratic nations everywhere in the world against "direct or 
indirect aggression." It translated a concrete American interest 
for a limited area of the world into a general principle of 
worldwide validity, to be applied regardless of the limits of 
American interests and powers. It is said that this general 
doctrine, which in its universalistic terms provided so little 
guidance to action, had to be cast in this mold. Congressional 
support required for popular support was possible only in the 
framework of an anti-communist crusade. Later on, however, 
it was necessary for Secretary of State Dean Acheson to 
reformulate the Truman Doctrine in a speech before the 
National Press Club on January 12, 1950: "I hear almost 
every day someone say that the real interest of the United 

^^ Quoted in Hans J. Morgenthau and Kenneth W, Thompson, Principles 
and Problems of International Politics (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 
1950), p. 24. 

124 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

States is to stop the spread of Communism. Nothing seems to 
me to put the cart before the horse more completely than 
that." The thing to oppose, he noted, is Russian imperialism 
of which communism is but "the most subtle instrument . . . 
the spearhead." The Marshall Plan was represented as a 
means of guaranteeing that Europe would be immune to 
communist infiltration and make further aid unnecessary. In 
recent days the debate on the Eisenhower Doctrine has once 
more revived this same issue. What is it we oppose in the 
Middle East? Is it nationalism, communism, or Soviet pene- 
tration? The answers to this are symptomatic of the confusion 
we feel, partly because such questions are alien to the Ameri- 
can penchant for justifying policies in terms of universal 
claims. Perhaps some of our British friends are right when 
they observe: "By temperament most Americans are men of 
action. Faced with a situation they feel frustrated unless they 
are doing something about it. Time for them is an enemy to 
be overcome, not, as we British tend to think, an ally to work 
with. They find release in action, in getting over and done 
with."^^ Perhaps this is why we prefer to see something total 
and all-inclusive like communism as the enemy we oppose 
and whom we are to overcome. 

It is also broadly true that the historical roots of problems 
occupy us less immediately than they do the British. It is said 
that "the American judges persons and nations more by their 
present than their past and more by his estimate of their 
future than their present."^^ This is perhaps not surprising. 
Within a brief decade Americans have been torn from the 
privacy of domestic pursuits and thrust into a position of 
world leadership. The past half-century has witnessed the 
discovery that the world was our proper concern. Is it any 
wonder that, compared to a nation with several centuries of 
world leadership, we should be less disposed to look to the 
ancient and forgotten sources of a problem? Nazism and 

^'^ Franks, Britain and the Tide of World Affairs^ p. 32. 
'^'Ibid., p. 35- 

125 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

communism have been treated as forces that were entirely 
unique but with their weakening or disappearance old prob- 
lems return to plague us. 

The wonder is that, despite its uncertainties and its lack of 
a period of apprenticeship, American foreign policy has 
evolved a relatively consistent course of action. It has met and 
for the most part checked Russian expansion. It has accepted 
its international responsibilities around the globe. However, 
these actions are not always clear outside our own borders. 
A leading British diplomatist has explained: "There are 
many . . . who have based their judgment of America on what 
Washington says, instead of what Washington does. And it is 
a dangerous procedure."^* Its deeds have been better than 
its words and when new events have called for new directions 
it has proved itself worthy of the task. Leaders who have not 
themselves been particularly distinguished have seemed in 
responsible positions to rise to their responsibilities. Moreover, 
the sense of moral mission has been the fuel that empowered 
Americans to go beyond any narrow sense of duty and interest. 
In summary, the tension between the American and British 
philosophies of international relations stems less from any 
conflict of thought-in-action and more from the gap between 
American words and deeds. Taken as a whole, postwar Ameri- 
can foreign policy has been moderately prudent and realistic. 
Its justification has been less in the framework of concepts 
of political realism and more in the tradition of the rationalism 
and legalism which prevailed in the 1920's and 1930's. 
Ironically enough, the philosophy of international politics of 
the philosophers, columnists, and planners which we examined 
earlier is closer to the British than the American approach. 
This leaves American foreign policy with foundations for 
action that are misleading, misconceived, and likely to produce 
sharp reactions. American policy-makers have continued to 
talk in the slogans that intellectuals espoused before World 
War II. There has been what amounts to a cultural lag be- 

^^ Ibid.., p. 30. 

126 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

tween the best theories of international politics and the ones 
expressed by policy-makers. Thus Mr. Dulles maintained 
that moral force is a motive power in forcing states like 
Britain or France or Russia to behave in certain ways. This 
notion of an autonomous moral force was characteristic of 
earlier thinking, but scholars today relate moral force to 
coercive power whenever they seek to trace the impact of an 
all-powerful idea. Policy-makers cling to a doctrine of aggres- 
sion that is vaguely reminiscent of the Pact of Paris concept 
that aggression must and would be outlawed once and for all. 
Modern thinkers are more inclined to see aggression as but 
one of many crimes that this tragic and unhappy world 
fosters, and they are less sanguine about proscribing it espe- 
cially by legal fiat. Yet modern American leaders continue to 
think and speak in the discourse of an earlier age. 

There is a kind of final irony in the tension existing in the 
realm of philosophy that exacerbates Anglo-American rela- 
tions. American policy, which in certain respects has been 
more realistic than British policy, clings to doctrines and 
justifications that are at least partly obsolete. When British 
decision-makers take America at its word, they run the risk 
of denouncing words that obscure realistic decisions or of 
confounding claims with intentions and results. In the final 
analysis this problem is probably the chief cause of tension 
between the two philosophies and in a deeper sense it is the 
chief problem that Britain and America share in common. 
"There is a risk of too wide a gap developing between those 
who govern us and us who are governed.'"^ If the hiatus 
grows too wide between the leaders who speak in one language 
to one another and in a different way to those who are led, 
foreign policy or democracy or both must perish, victims of a 
challenge that proved greater than human resources. The 
future of the West may hang on our ability to meet this 
profound issue. 

55 Ibid., p. 63. 

127 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

III. THE UNSOLVED PROBLEMS IN STATESMANSHIP 
AND THEORY 

The tension between Britain and the United States need 
not obscure the unities between us. It is appropriate to call 
attention to the indissoluble bond that joins English-speaking 
peoples. We share a common cultural heritage and social and 
political accomplishments that lead even writers as judicious 
as Walter Lippmann to speak of us as one people. The issue 
that is raised by recent events is whether this community can 
withstand the burdens of three major unsolved problems. The 
first arises from the frightening loss of prestige and power by 
Britain and by other European powers, accompanied by an 
equally frightening accretion of power by the United States. 
Britain's loss of prestige is frightening because its foreign 
policy was enhanced by its reputation for success. Can it sur- 
vive the gnawing awareness, both in Britain and abroad, that 
it can no longer be master of its fate? America's growth in 
strength is frightening because we are inexperienced in shoul- 
dering the vast responsibilities in world affairs, having moved 
to the center of the stage only a short decade ago. We shall 
be endlessly tempted to conceive the impotence of our friends 
as a sign of our own omnipotence, their loss of prestige as 
proof of our increase in moral stature, and their retreat as a 
token of our advance. Most perilous of all, we are bound to 
compare our success and their failures and interpret it as a 
ratification of a moralistic over a pragmatic approach. Much 
as the Puritans saw wealth as a proof of virtue, some of our 
leaders point with pride to the triumph of moral force. The 
shift of power from Europe and Britain to the United States 
makes for frustration, and, in the extreme, acts of despera- 
tion, for those who have lost their power. On the other side 
of the Atlantic it can also make for pride, vainglory, and a 
tendency to obscure the vestigial prestige that Britain enjoys 
in areas like India, where curiously enough British policy was 

128 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

the result of declining British power and the plausibility of 
freedom as a moral principle. It is worth considering that 
the United States, as it inherits Britain's world responsibilities, 
also takes on the moral burden that falls to those who wield 
influence over others. Hence Britain's predicament is our 
problem and we would do well to be as diligent in searching 
for points of concurrence between our mutual interests as we 
are in proclaiming our superior power and virtue. Writing of 
the recent catastrophe in the Middle East, an Indian com- 
mentator, the editor of The Eastern Economist ^ observed: 
"The U.S.A. had no consistent policy in the area. Mr. Dulles 
seemed unaware that innumerable countries friendly to the 
U.S.A. had any stake in the use of the Suez Canal or Arabian 
oil, or in keeping the U.S.S.R. out. He was thus breaking the 
first rule of a foreign policy: Find out who your friends are 
and help their interests along. If you don't you must not be 
surprised if they ultimately, in desperation, decide to act 
without you. Equally, the natural friends of France and 
Britain in Asia were conscious of the evils of colonialism to 
the point of failing to see who their friends were and where 
their interests lay."^° 

A second unsolved problem results from our conflicting 
views over the nature of the diplomatic process. We have 
been more inclined to see negotiations as activities which were 
successful and honorable only when carried on in the spotlight 
of public opinion. From President Wilson's slogan of "open 
covenants openly arrived at" to President Eisenhower's 
yearning to turn over the negotiation of a Middle Eastern 
settlement to the United Nations, this trend of thought has 
been dominant, though lately more among statesmen than 
philosophers. Yet the progress of recent weeks in the mitiga- 
tion of these conflicts has resulted almost entirely from the 
efforts at private or "quiet diplomacy" of men like Lester 

^^ Odysseus "Foreigri Policies Without Power," The Eastern Economist, 
Vol. XXVIII, No. 6, February 8, 1957, p. 189. 

129 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

Pearson, Dag Hammarskjold, and Secretary Dulles. The dif- 
ference between their approach lies in the willingness of only 
one to explain what experience had taught him. Mr. Pearson 
characterizes the Wilsonian slogan as "of very doubtful 
validity."" He warns that we flatter ourselves if we think 
that "face" is an Oriental monopoly or that Western diplo- 
mats can afford to take stands for public consumption and then 
abandon them at will. On the contrary, "few things seem 
harder to abandon than the bold black headline which at the 
beginning of the conference has announced your policy to the 
world: few things harder to face than the wrath of the radio 
or news pundit who, after having already proclaimed that 
policy to be superlatively wise and one which he has been 
advocating all along, then finds that it has been changed."^® 
The purpose of negotiation is the reconciliation of interests j 
this is made more difficult when compromise becomes equiva- 
lent to capitulation if not treason. "In serious negotiations, if 
you succeed in finding a satisfactory and honourable compro- 
mise you have not surrendered, you have succeeded."^^ Yet 
the public, if it has been told, say, that any relations with 
China or Yugoslavia or Poland are immoral, cannot but view 
renewed contracts with them, whatever the benefits, as rootless 
surrender of principle. 

A third unsolved problem is, of course, the one with which 
we opened our discussion: the dilemma of conducting foreign 
policy in a democracy. With all of its troublesome problems, 
we would have reason for optimism if certain things were 
true. If one could say that American statesmen were as forth- 
right in pointing out the nature of the problem as are Pearson, 
Suhrawardy, or Churchill, we could be hopeful. If our theo- 
rists and our political leaders spoke with one voice, we could 
be hopeful. If public opinion periodically became impatient 
with slogans and simple formulas, we could be hopeful. If 
the American President saw it as his duty to take the people 

^'^ Pearson, Democracy., p. 56. ^^ Ibid., pp. 56-57. -'^ Ibid., p. 58. 

130 



STATESMEN AS PHILOSOPHERS 

into his confidence, to guide and instruct them in the harsh 
realities with which he is daily confronted, we could be hope- 
ful. If our allies were as tolerant of the outbursts of public 
emotion on this side of the Atlantic as they are of their own, 
we could be hopeful. Until this bright and happy day, how- 
ever, the most we can hope is that our leaders may come to 
reflect an underlying realism and wisdom that can come only 
as we improve our instincts and philosophy if not our compre- 
hensive knowledge of foreign relations. One slight ground for 
hope rests in the fact that another democratic people devel- 
oped these instincts at least to a limited degree. If statesmen 
can summon the moral courage for dealing with real issues, 
for narrowing the gap between foreign policy for the public 
and foreign policy for the diplomats, and for using the powers 
they have, then these unsolved problems may yield. The 
challenge is very great. In the words of Lord Strang, it is 
nothing less than the dilemma of democratic diplomacy. If 
we quote his somber words in conclusion, it is not to contribute 
despair but to indicate the order of the challenge. He notes: 
"It cannot be denied that this public ventilation and discus- 
sion of the issues of foreign policy, often at awkward moments, 
has a hampering effect upon the flexibility, resourcefulness, 
and imagination with which diplomatic operations might 
otherwise be more fruitfully conducted. The publicity has 
in large measure, and rightly, done away with the secret 
treaty J but it has also impaired the secrecy of negotiation and 
the secrecy of negotiation is the essence of diplomacy. It may 
be questioned, too, whether the impact of public opinion upon 
the action of governments will always make for peace and 
international understanding. Even with the most responsible 
public opinion and the best kind of government, it might on 
the contrary make for worse rather than better international 
relations. 'Parliaments,' it has been said, 'are usually more 
nationalistic and belligerent than executives, and people than 
parliaments.' But, on the other hand, there are times, which 



THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS 

we have known in our own experience, when peoples will go 
to the other extreme and neglect their future security. ... In 
the home field, one symptom of this lack of resolve is the 
drift to inflation: in the foreign field it can lead all to easily 
to policies of appeasement."®" 

It will not help to hide our heads in the sand or to make 
soothing statements to bolster morale. These are real and 
genuine problems to be faced bravely and well. 

IV. ONE WORD OF HOPE 

The importance of the American trend of thought described 
in earlier pages rests precisely in its capacity for supplying 
partial answers to some of the problems. Recognition of diffi- 
culties need not lead to an impasse. The political realism 
associated with Lippmann, Spykman, and Niebuhr embraces 
intellectual resources sufficient to fill the gap in an American 
outlook that appears inadequate. Executive leadership, hon- 
esty as to goals and limitations, and the replacing of a fatuous 
moralism that misleads the people, confuses our allies, and 
deceives our foes — all lie within reach. They await only a 
more courageous acceptance by leaders who aspire to states- 
manship worthy of the name. 

^° The Listener, No. 1451, p. 93. 



132 



TART TWO 

THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS OF 
FOREIGN POLICY 



CHAPTER 4 

THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE IN 

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: NECESSITY AND 

THE NEW BALANCE OF POWER 



[If the moralist] is to deserve a hearing among his 
fellows, he must set himself this task which is so much 
humbler than to command and so much more difficult 
than to exhort: he must seek to anticipate and to supple- 
ment the insight of his fellow men into the problems of 
their adjustment to reality. — Walter lippmann 



No PROBLEM on the agenda of America's relations with the 
rest of the world is more bewildering, compelling, and ulti- 
mately decisive than the moral evaluation of foreign policy. 
It must be apparent in the second decade of the Cold War 
that we judge ourselves and in turn are judged by the prin- 
ciples we affirm and those we realize. National morale and 
international prestige are casualties of moral outlooks that 
are either too egocentric or too pretentious. A country's moral 
stock in the world rises and falls as its moral claims are 
plausible and convincing and its policies in line with its 
declarations. Yet intellectuals and policy-makers alike are 
alternately tempted to exaggerate or underestimate the influ- 
ence of moral principles and fall prey either to moralism or 
cynicism. Perhaps this is more true of the United States than 
the rest of the English-speaking world, where questions of 
political morality are decided in specific cases as required by 
contemporary events, oftentimes with the conscious avoidance 
of generalized propositions. In any event, most Americans 
are offended to know that principle and necessity are fre- 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

quently in conflict when man acts politically. They are dis- 
tressed to learn that it is the essence of politics that man 
chooses goals and objectives which are limited both in applica- 
tion and scope and therefore fully satisfying only for par- 
ticular groups and nations. For example, in practice those 
measures which are for the good of labor often work an 
injustice upon management. Only in pure thought can actions 
and policies remain uncorrupted and undefiled by at least 
some margin of injustice, even though philosophers from 
Adam Smith to Kenneth Arrow would dispose of this tragic 
dimension of social choice through one artifact or another. 
This universal aspect of the corruption of absolute justice 
within the realm of politics finds its outstanding expression in 
international politics. There my nation's justice can mean 
your nation's injustice, my nation's security and its require- 
ments can appear as the cause of your nation's insecurity. 
Armaments, defense preparations, and alliances essential to a 
nation's safety are simultaneously a threat to security as 
viewed through other eyes. 

Faced with such conflicts, the moralist maintains that at 
present men pursue a double standard of conduct in their 
private and public lives. Privately, man is honest and ethical j 
publicly, he covers his acts with a tissue of lies and deception. 
His virtue in private affairs is seen as the conquest of culture 
over barbarism, of a rational age over an irrational one. In an 
earlier stage in man's evolution, his private conduct was 
marred by brutality and violence, but education, a legal order, 
and free institutions transformed him. In a similar way the 
cultural lag from which nations have suffered in international 
relations is perceptibly being erased. The forward march of 
history is carrying nations from a retarded condition into a 
new and enlightened era when private standards will become 
public international rules. Those who doubt are denounced as 
foes of progress and men of little faith. 

The shattering effects of two World Wars have thrown a 

136 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

dash of political realism on the sanguine expectations of this 
moralistic viewpoint. Its hopes and predictions bear little 
resemblance to the recent conduct of states. The melancholy 
unfolding of the past four decades has left the most ardent 
believers shaken and uncertain} in practice, simple moralistic 
viewpoints have tended to induce their opposite, namely, a 
bleak and hopeless cynicism. The cynic, diametrically opposed 
to the moralist, tends to argue that politics and ethics diverge 
only because they are unlike quantities. Politics are means and 
ethics are ends. Means may be evil, but good ends, to which 
means are subordinated, can endow means with good ethical 
content. The dictum that the end justifies the means seems in 
the realm of politics to furnish a simple clue to the problem. 
Yet for men and for nations, the universal practice is to justify 
every evil measure by claiming it serves an ethical goal. For 
Stalin the gross brutality of liquidating the kulaks found 
justification as an inevitable step in the history-fulfilling com- 
munist design; for Hitler the cremation of so-called inferior 
races was excused as a necessary hygienic measure if Teutonic 
superiority were to continue unimpaired. Since nations in the 
present anarchic world society tend to be repositories of their 
own morality, the ends-means formula has prevailed as an 
answer to the moral dilemma, for undeniably it is a concealed 
but essential truth that nations tend to create their own 
morality. In its extreme form, however, this development has 
found nations accepting as ethical whatever redounded to 
their own material advantage and judging whatever was 
detrimental to their purposes as immoral and evil. Yet it in- 
heres in the nature of man and politics that statesmen and 
nations never wholly escape the judgment of elementary 
ethical standards. The history of politics discloses that ,no 
people have completely divorced politics from ethics; that, 
however grudgingly, they have come to see that men were 
required to conform to standards more objective than those 
of success. Neither moralism nor cynicism has the intellectual 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

resources for illuminating these vital issues. Fortunately we 
are free to turn to other contemporary alternatives. 

I. FOUR CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO 
PRINCIPLE AND NECESSITY 

One source of hope is the intellectual ferment that results as 
outstanding minds turn to reflect on these problems. It has 
been said that first-class problems attract first-class minds j by 
this test the moral problem has in recent years proved one of 
our most challenging and persistent concerns. Four writers in 
particular have probed more deeply than many of their con- 
temporaries: one a historian, another a legal philosopher and 
international jurist, a third a political theorist and a fourth a 
theologian. Quite obviously others have made significant 
contributions, but this group is noteworthy — to paraphrase 
William James — for making an unusually stubborn attempt 
to think clearly. Moreover, the conclusions they draw, while 
complementary, are not identical j from their differences as 
well as agreements certain guiding principles emerge. 

Herbert Butterfield, the Cambridge historian and Master 
of Peterhouse, has analyzed international morality and the 
historical process in a series of important writings. The most 
characteristic statement of his viewpoint appears in books like 
Christianity y War and Diflomacy ; Christianity and History 
and Christianity and European History. Morality, in his view, 
is not one thing for the statesman and another thing for the 
rest of mankind. There is no such thing as a separate political 
ethic. Philosophers and poets, no less than decision-makers, 
must daily choose not between good and evil but between 
lesser evils or partial goods. The quality of the decision 
fundamentally at least is no different in politics or business, 
education or family life. Therefore Butterfield has argued: 
"I don't see why in politics the virtues which I associate with 
the Christian religion should be suspended: humility, charity, 
self -judgment, and acceptance of the problem Providence sets 

138 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

before one^ also a disposition not to direct affairs as a sover- 
eign will in the world but to make one's action a form of 
cooperation with Providence."^ 

Professor Butterfield grounds his conception of interna- 
tional morality in three general propositions. First, morality 
as he conceives it derives ultimately from a "higher law" 
espoused alike by "lapsed Christians" and religious thinkers, 
according to which nothing but human beings exist or matter. 
Second, morality must be sharply distinguished from every 
form of moralistic program and creed that, embodied in a 
crusade, would claim for its partial insights a more ultimate 
standing than they deserve. Third, an international order 
exists as the ultimately relevant objective standard against 
which national interests must be measured. 

The first proposition prompts Professor Butterfield to 
insist that the social order requires men who would preserve 
themselves and their values to have "respect for the other 
man's personality, the other man's end. . . ."" In a word, men 
in the final analysis live in a moral order, however ambiguous 
its particular forms and expressions may be. Present-day 
thought has difficulty with this conception, for, on the one 
hand, liberal philosophies that accept as their sole premise 
the "rights of man" run the risk of encouraging an unbridled 
egotism according to which man need obey the law only if 
he agrees with it. On the other hand, thinking that starts with 
the "duties of man" is likely to end by making him the slave 
of the state. That is why both man and the state must be 
subject to a transcendent moral and political order that 
prompts them to treat one another as more than means to 
an end. In this connection "if in the Anglo-Saxon world there 
has been the necessary amount of the spirit of give-and-take, 

^ Herbert Butterfield, "Morality and Historical Process in International 
Affairs," unpublished manuscript for June 12, 1956, meeting of Columbia 
University Seminar on Theory of International Politics, p. i. 

^ Ibid., p. 2. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the disposition to compromise, respect for the other man's 
opinion and the reluctance to resort to desperation-policies,'" 
this may be due to our greater security, longer political experi- 
ence, or state of urbanity free from violence, but it may also 
be due to the survival of religious influences. We are members 
of a single Western civilization or cultural community that 
embraces the moral criteria of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. 
In some communities, the absence of "a higher law" or regu- 
lative principle makes for doctrinaire politics and "those who 
have no religion are particularly liable to bring a religious 
fanaticism to problems of mundane organization which ought 
to be matters for transaction and negotiation. Lord Acton was 
probably right when he said that liberty is impossible except 
amongst people who have a sense that the whole political 
game Is being played In a realm over which there rules a 
higher law."* 

If the beginning of wisdom is the recognition that men live 
finally In some kind of a moral order, the next step is an aware- 
ness that the moral Is not the merely moralistic. Moral judg- 
ments can sometimes be used as a screen to conceal practical 
responsibilities to society and to oneself. "A careless librarian, 
who establishes no regular system for the checking of his 
books may be satisfied just to heap blame on the people whose 
delinquencies have resulted in gaps in his shelves."* His pious 
preachments against dishonesty and in favor of virtue can 
hardly excuse his lack of responsibility. Moreover, moral 
judgments may also spill over Into Pharisaism exemplified 
by the priggish morallzers Christ condemned in the Gospels. 
If there are obscurities in the Gospels, this text is not among 
them. Nothing Is clearer than the distinction between those 
who claim to be and those who are righteous. We recall the 
parable of the Pharisee and the publican In the eighteenth 
chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke : "Two men went 

^Ibii. *Ibid. ^Ibid., p. 3. 

140 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

up to the temple to prayj the one a Pharisee, and the other 
a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extor- 
tioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. . . . And 
the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as 
his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God 
be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down 
to his house justified rather than the other: for every one 
that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth 
himself shall be exalted." The moral lesson to be drawn is 
not that some states are pharisaic and others publicans but 
rather that all nations are strongly disposed to endow their 
particular national ethical systems with universal validity. 
Nations find themselves today in a situation not too dissimilar 
from that obtaining domestically within the United States 
prior to the Civil War. The sanctities of religion and science 
are invoked to show that one course of action, one nation's 
program, will execute a divine mandate. Nations go to war 
not in dispute over territorial boundaries but to make the 
world safe for democracy or to destroy human wickedness 
incarnated in evil men like Hitler and Mussolini. Wars of 
righteousness in which compromise and limited objectives are 
looked on as treason are today's counterpart of earlier histori- 
cal wars of religion. 

Professor Butterfield's diagnosis of the present crisis brings 
him to offer some practical alternatives. He finds that "once 
the aggressor is held in check, and once a balance of forces is 
achieved, the healing processes of time, and these alone, can 
solve our problem. . . ."^ The core of his prescription for 
peace and morality, therefore, is time and the absence of war 
and revolution. Any conflict that time and reason cannot solve 
will not be solved by war. He is persuaded that it is possible 
to live with ideological deadlocks and to discover a modus 

« Ibid. 

141 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

Vivendi, as in the struggle between Catholicism and Protes- 
tantism, and Islam and Christianity. With patience and good 
luck, justice can eventually emerge. His critics ask whether 
this is not a counsel of perfection. How would this precept 
have applied to Hitler? Apparently Butterfield believes that 
a balance of forces against Hitler sometime prior to 1939 
might have prevented the conflict and allowed time to work 
its healing effect. 

A more general alternative to wars of righteousness is a 
restoration of the international order. "On moral grounds, as 
well as on prudential calculations, national egotism requires 
to be checked, superseded and transcended.'" Partly this 
demands "every possible variation and extension of the art of 
putting oneself — and actually feeling oneself — in the other 
person's [or nation's] place."® It requires states to recognize 
themselves as imperfect parts of an imperfectly ethical world 
and to show somewhat greater awareness of the moral com- 
plexities and disparities in the objective environment under- 
lying the state behavior of others. Beyond this, statesmen 
must ask the question whether their policies are likely to 
produce the kind of international order in which their own 
values can survive. In this sense they transcend national self- 
interest at the point of the query, "Everything considered, 
what is best for the world?" Indeed "a state may fairly ac- 
quire virtue from the very fact that it contrives to make its 
self-interest harmonize with something that is good for the 
world in general."^ A case in point may be the liquidation of 
large segments of the British Empire when morality and the 
necessity of reducing its overseas commitments converged in 
a common policy. In this same connection, the intrinsic logic 

"^ Ibid., p. 10. 

^ Professor Butterfield distinguishes between the moralist and the statesman 
in this way: "The moralist and the teacher, the prophet and the preacher, 
address themselves to the improvement of human nature itself. . . . The 
statesman is concerned to improve human conduct rather by the process of 
rectifying conditions." Ibid.., pp. 8-9. 

® Ibid.y p. ID. 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

of the Marshall Plan comes naturally to mind. In Mr. 
Butterfield's words: "Whether we are practising diplomacy, 
or conducting a war, or negotiating a peace treaty, our ulti- 
mate objective is the maintenance and the development of an 
international order. This is the purpose which transcends 
national egotism and puts the boundary to self-interest — the 
purpose to which all our more immediate aims in foreign 
policy have reference."^" 

It is striking that another tiny European country has given 
us the second writer of note on international morality. Judge 
Charles de Visscher of Belgium is a philosopher and interna- 
tional jurist, formerly a member of the International Court of 
Justice and now Professor at the University of Louvain. An 
English translation of his classic treatise. Theory and Reality 
in Public International Law has recently been published by 
the Princeton University Press. In importance it has already 
been compared by some to the writings of Grotius and Vattel. 
Whatever its place in the annals may be, however, its doc- 
trines for present-day international law are profoundly signifi- 
cant. In the first place, Judge de Visscher's writings strike a 
distinct counterbeat to the overly sanguine propositions of 
many Western international lawyers and moralists who, he 
implies, have sought to build upon a heedless sacrifice of 
reality. He finds few basic solidarities in the international 
order J he looks for but cannot find a genuine world com- 
munity. By contrast, the modern state owes its historical 
cohesion to external pressures and resulting national loyalties. 
In contact with the world outside, the state, like any social 
group, becomes conscious of itself and its solidarities. Inter- 
national society, lacking in these incentives to greater solidar- 
ity, substitutes for them an appeal to sacrifice and to a common 
supranational good, but this perception is closed to the great 
majority of mankind. In the state vital interests and the most 
highly political experiences evoke supreme solidarities. In 

lo/^ii., p. II. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the international realm, the opposite is true, for minor solidar- 
ities of an economic or technical order can be found, but the 
nearer one approaches vital questions, such as the preservation 
of peace and the prevention of war, the less influence the 
community has on its members. "If the international com- 
munity, or more accurately the sense of such a community, 
finds so little echo in individual consciences, this is less because 
power obstructs it than because of the immense majority of 
men are still infinitely less accessible to the doubtless real but 
certainly remote solidarities that it evokes than to the imme- 
diate and tangible solidarities that impose themselves upon 
them in the framework of national life."^^ 

Moreover, Judge de Visscher believes that "neither politics 
nor law will ensure equilibrium and peace in the world without 
the 'moral infrastructure.' " This structure is essential to 
understanding contemporary world politics. At present, in 
matters political, men are disposed to transfer their most im- 
portant moral impulses to the state. "The morality that 
peoples practice in their mutual relations is in large measure 
the product of their historical partitioning. They are refrac- 
tory to a higher morality only because their sentiments like 
their interests continue to gravitate exclusively about the units 
which are today the Nation-States. These, though theoretically 
subordinate to the higher unity are in fact real and almost 
absolute centers of moral cohesion.'"^ "Sacred egoism," the 
fascist formula, was only the most blustering expression of 
collective morality, which makes the national good the su- 
preme good and civil duty the absolute duty. "Merely to 
invoke the idea of an international community, as the habit is, 
is immediately to move into a vicious circle, for it is to postu- 
late in men, shut in their national compartments, something 
they still largely lack, namely the community spirit, the 

^^ Charles de Visscher, Theory and Reality in Public International Laiu, 
tr. by Percy Corbett (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956), p. 92. 
^^ Ibid.^ p. 94. 

144 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

deliberate adherence to supranational values.'"^ Judge de 
Visscher is sharply critical of much of earlier international 
law and bases his indictment largely on grounds that "it 
exaggerated the specificity of international law, separating 
it off from the moral, social and political data which form its 
sphere of application and condition its effectiveness."" Every 
legal or social reform that would be successful must take 
account of the moral infrastructure. The failures of collective 
security, of the outlawry of war, and of the belief that states 
would be swayed by appeals to world public opinion are all 
examples of thinking that suffers from the illusion that moral 
foundations are unimportant. Political community has its 
roots in moral factors unhappily sometimes missing in many 
of the areas that have taken on recent importance in American 
foreign relations. 

It is a fair question, then, to ask how Judge de Visscher 
seeks to meet these seemingly overwhelming and impossible 
problems. If we can give a much too abbreviated response, 
he calls for a drastic change in the modern conception of the 
state and its power: "These [concepts] pulled down from 
their present eminence as the supreme goals of political organ- 
ization, must be subordinated to the ends of the human 
person.'""^ The human ends of politics and the obstacles to 
their attainment are the common problems of contemporary 
law and politics, whether in the national or international 
sphere. The human end of politics from a purely formal 
point of view "may be defined as the pursuit of the common 
good, understood as that which in a community should ensure 
the good of each in the good of the collectivity."^^ Whenever 
the notion of the common good is no longer harnessed to 
human ends, a fatal deterioration in the ends of power sets 
in. These human ends have been dealt with somewhat naively 
and impatiently in some of the declarations by the United 

^^ Ibid., p. 98. ^^Ibid., p. xi. 

^^ Ibid., p. ix. ^^ Ibid., p. 71. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

Nations in the proposed Covenant on Human Rights. But 
de Visscher concludes: "It is the fate of any idea of a highly 
spiritual character to be exposed to some distortion when it is 
introduced into a new environment. . . . [Yet] the bond that 
is being established beyond any shadow of doubt between the 
rights of man on the one hand, and the maintenance of peace 
and respect for law on the other hand, constitutes the first 
assertion by the international organization of a great moral 
and civilizing principle. ... A functional conception of power 
here joins hands with Christian doctrine, making human 
values — the only values that can command universal accept- 
ance — the ultimate point of convergence of peace and law. 
We must neither count upon its immediate efficacy, nor reject 
the hopes that it awakens."" 

The third scholar whose writings should be mentioned is 
Hans J. Morgenthau, a political theorist who looks with the 
realist's discerning eye at moral claims in world politics. He 
submits impressive evidence that most protestations of selfless 
and humanitarian behavior by states are not matched by their 
conduct in practice. For instance, the keeping of promises, the 
protection of minorities, and the repudiation of war as an 
instrument of national policy are honored as often in the 
breach as in the keeping, especially when vital interests are 
at stake. 

Yet Professor Morgenthau's analysis of the influence of 
moral principles is by no means as negative as sometimes 
assumed. In one broad area he has called attention more 
clearly than any of his peers to the far-reaching consequences 
of practical morality. This area comprises the moral restraints 
on the use of national power. A state pursuing its objectives 
in a world of unmitigated power politics would seem to be 
justified in employing any means that would strengthen its 
power and weaken that of an antagonist. Indeed in an earlier 
era court poisoners and paid assassins carried on their heinous 

^'' Ibid., p. 129. 

146 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

crimes for precisely this end. Today it is plainly not a matter 
of indifference to states whether friendly or antagonistic 
leaders hold power in neighboring states, nor are the technical 
difficulties of disposing of them any greater than in the past. 
However the civilizing influence of practical morality has 
made these acts ethically reprehensible and normally impos- 
sible of execution. Clemenceau put his finger on the core of 
"the German problem" for France and Europe when he 
declared there were 20,000,000 Germans too many. The 
expedient way of dealing with this problem would be through 
the decisive methods by which the Romans solved the Cartha- 
ginian problem once and for all. Yet there are moral restraints 
that for all practical purposes rule this out, although in the 
exchange between Stalin and Churchill at the Teheran Con- 
ference there are hints of another conception of international 
politics in which the same moral restraints do not operate. 
Churchill reports of Stalin: 

"The German General Staff, he said, must be liquidated. 
The whole force of Hitler's mighty armies depended upon 
about fifty thousand officers and technicians. If these were 
rounded up and shot at the end of the war, German military 
strength would be extirpated. On this I thought it right to 
say: 'The British Parliament and public will never tolerate 
mass executions. Even if in war passion they allowed them to 
begin, they would turn violently against those responsible 
after the first butchery had taken place. The Soviets must be 
under no delusion on this point.' 

"Stalin however, perhaps only in mischief, pursued the sub- 
ject. 'Fifty thousand,' he said, 'must be shot.' I was deeply 
angered. 'I would rather,' I said, 'be taken out into the garden 
here and now and be shot myself than sully my own and my 
country's honour by such infamy.' "^^ 

Finally, it is redundant to say that the American theologian 

^^ Sir Winston Churchill, Closing the Ring (Boston : Houghton Mifflin 
Co., 1951), pp. 373-74- 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

Reinhold Niebuhr has influenced thinking on international 
morahty. Niebuhr is persuaded that men and states cannot 
follow their interest without claiming to do so in obedience to 
some general scheme of values. Two very grave moral and 
practical questions have continued to trouble him and have 
led him to make a series of distinctions regarding the national 
interest. First, he has asked whether a consistent emphasis 
upon the national interest is not as self-defeating in national 
as it is in individual life. Or, put in other terms, does not a 
nation concerned too much with its own interests define those 
interests so narrowly and so immediately (as for instance in 
terms of military security) that the interests and securities, 
which depend upon common devotion to principles of justice 
and upon established mutualities in a community of nations, 
are sacrificed? Secondly, nations which insist on the one hand 
that they cannot act beyond their interest claim, as soon as 
they act, that they have acted not out of self-interest but in 
obedience to higher objectives like "civilization" or "justice." 
Applied to the conduct of contemporary American foreign 
relations, this means we claim more for the benevolence of 
our policies than they deserve and arouse the resentment of 
peoples already inclined to envy our power and wealth. Thus 
national interest is imperiled at one time by the hazard of 
moral cynicism and at another time by moral pretension and 
hypocrisy. In earlier writings Niebuhr has dealt with the first 
of these questions and more recently with the second. In the 
evolution of his thinking, moreover, he has come to view 
them as parts of a single problem, involving our continued 
ambivalence toward the moral issue, claiming at one moment 
that nations have no obligations beyond their interests and 
at the next moment that they are engaged in a high moral 
crusade without regard for interests. 

To mention one difference among the four theorists, Nie- 
buhr along with Morgenthau has been most consistent in 
stressing the peculiarities and uniqueness of collective moral- 

148 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

ity. He notes the ferocity and intensity o£ the struggle among 
groups, when compared to the rivalry of individuals, stem- 
ming from the tendency of collectivities like the nation to 
express both the virtue and selfishness of their members. This 
tendency is strengthened by the passing of any widely 
accepted view as to the proper end of man. One consequence 
of modern mass society had been to thwart the attainment of 
personal security and the satisfaction of basic human aspira- 
tions, especially for particular groups. Frustrated individuals 
strive to fulfill themselves vicariously by projecting their ego 
to the level of the national ego. In mass society, collective 
attainments offer possibilities of self-aggrandizement that 
individual pretensions no longer serve. At the same time, 
appeals are made to the loyalty, self-sacrifice, and devotion of 
individuals in the group. In this way, social unity is built on 
the virtuous as well as the selfish side of man's nature j the 
twin elements of collective strength become self-sacrificial 
loyalty and frustrated ambitions and aggressions. From this 
it follows that politics is the more contentious and ruthless 
because of the unselfish loyalty of the members of groups, 
which become laws unto themselves unrestrained by their 
obedient and worshipful members. Group pride is in fact the 
corruption of individual loyalty and group consciousness j 
contempt for another group is the pathetic form which respect 
for our own frequently takes. The tender emotions that bind 
the family together sometimes are expressed in indifference 
for the welfare of other families. In international society a 
nation made up of men of the greatest religious goodwill 
would be less than loving toward other nations, for its virtue 
would be channeled into loyalty to itself thus increasing that 
nation's selfishness. The consequence for Niebuhr's political 
theory is his conclusion that "society . . . merely cumulates 
the egoism of individuals and transmutes their individual 
altruism into collective egoism so that the egoism of the group 
has a double force. For this reason no group acts from purely 

149 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

unselfish or even mutual intent and politics is therefore bound 
to be a contest of power."^^ 

II. THE FOURFOLD LIMITATION OF 
INTERNATIONAL MORALITY 

The insights and the wisdom of the four observers stand 
out most clearly against the background of four persistent 
problems or limitations lying at the roots of most of our 
modern confusion and uncertainty regarding principle and 
necessity. When we try to apply general principles such as 
those put forth by Butterfield and de Visscher, these limita- 
tions are present to confound us. The first problem or 
limitation results from the perennial tendency of states to 
see their national purposes as universal principles and ends. 
The second limitation stems from the effect of this spirit of 
national self-righteousness upon the resolution of interna- 
tional tensions and conflicts. The third limitation arises from 
the nature of collective morality and its apparent differences 
with individual morality. The fourth limitation derives from 
the fact that there are few if any absolutes in international 
politics. 

To take the first limitation, the fundamental source and 
cause of what has been called nationalistic universalism rests 
basically in a profound yet simple human dilemma. We are 
never as moral as we claim to be. This is true of the parent 
who disciplines the child "for its own good" no less than of 
the powerful nation which works its will on less powerful 
states. Even when justice is the goal of a loving father it 
invariably becomes mixed with coercion, caprice, and injustice. 
The Athenian envoys to Melos, who were perhaps more trans- 
parently honest than some of their latter-day successors, said 
of a powerful rival: "Of all the men we know they are most 
conspicuous in considering what is agreeable honourable and 

^^ Reinhold Niebuhr, "Human Nature and Social Change," Christian 
Century, Vol. L, 1953, p. 363. 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

what is expedient just."^° Centuries later the historian Dicey 
found that in Western society: "Men come easily to believe 
that arrangements agreeable to themselves are beneficial to 
others.""^ With a few exceptions, nations have seen their 
cause and supremacy as equivalent to universal justice. Lord 
Wolseley maintained: "I have but one great object in this 
world, and that is to maintain the greatness of the Empire. 
But apart from my John Bull sentiment upon the point, I 
firmly believe that in doing so I work in the cause of Chris- 
tianity, of peace, of civilization, and the happiness of the 
human race generally. "^^ Or, in 1935 in an early phase of 
his writings. Professor Arnold J. Toynbee discovered that 
the security of the British Empire "was also the supreme 
interest of the whole world."^^ 

Nor is American history lacking in comparable examples. 
It provides the story of President McKinley, who spent the 
night in prayer for divine guidance before deciding — as one 
might have expected — to annex the Philippines. Or President 
Wilson, who following the bombardment of Vera Cruz in 
1 9 14 assured the world that "the United States had gone to 
Mexico to serve mankind"^* and who shortly before our entry 
into World War I identified American principles and Ameri- 
can policies as "the principles of mankind . . . [which] must 
prevail."^^ We are reminded of de Tocqueville's words: "If 
I say to an American that the country he lives in is a fine one, 
aye, he replies and there is not its equal in the world. If I 

-° The Comflete Writings of Thucydides^ the unabridged Crowley trans- 
lation (New York: Random House, 1934), p. 334. 

^^ Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Ofinion 
in England (2nd ed.; New York: Macmillan Co., 1905), pp. 14-15. 

-- F. B. Maurice and G. Arthur, The Life of Lord Wolseley (New York: 
Doubleday & Co., 1924), p. 314. 

2^ Arnold J. Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs, ^935 (London: 
Oxford University Press, 1937), Vol. II, p. 46. 

^* Woodrow Wilson, The New Democracy: Presidential Messages, Ad- 
dresses, and Other Papers (191 3-1 7), edited by Ray Stannard Baker and 
William E. Dodd (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1926), Vol. i, p. 104. 

^^ Ibid., Vol. II, p. 414. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

applaud the freedom its inhabitants enjoy he answers 'freedom 
is a fine thing but few nations are worthy of it.' If I remark 
on the purity of morals that distinguishes the United States 
he declares 'I can imagine that a stranger who has witnessed 
the corruption which prevails in other nations would be aston- 
ished at the difference.' At length I leave him to a contempla- 
tion of himself but he returns to the charge and does not 
desist until he has got me to repeat all I have been saying. 
It is impossible to conceive a more troublesome and garrulous 
patriotism."-^ 

It should of course be obvious that every nation has its 
own form of spiritual pride, its own peculiar version. The 
American version is compounded, I would suppose, of several 
factors. The first derives from the role of the immigrant who 
had turned his back on the vices of Europe and was making 
a new beginning. Having shaken the dust of the old world 
from his feet, he was anxious to prove that none of its ancient 
failings were his failings. Their purposes, often sullied by 
ambiguities and compromises bound up with national exist- 
ence in the cockpit of Europe, were not his purposes. Strik- 
ingly enough, his affirmations of moral purity — or, more 
specifically, those by which national leaders appealed to his 
virtue — seemed to be confirmed by early American social 
history. In the first phases of this history the frontier saved 
us from the acrimony of class struggle and later our superior 
technology gave new outlets to the ambitious and adven- 
turous. Beyond this we were freed from international responsi- 
bility by the fortuitous coincidence of our geographic isolation 
and a European equilibrium of power which British policy 
and naval power was dedicated to preserve. In such a world, 
it was natural to assume that domestic policies were more 
important than foreign policy and that the alliances so preva- 
lent on the European scene were an expensive and pernicious 

2® Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. ii, the Henry 
Reeve text (New York: Vintage Books, 1954), p. 236. 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

nuisance. Even the Monroe Doctrine was seen more as a 
unilateral declaration and less as a weapon in diplomacy. 
These objective conditions have passed but the psychology 
they inspired lingers on, for instance, in the sweeping and 
indignant denunciations of the exercise of power by European 
states, followed abruptly by our own decision to use force 
unilaterally if necessary in the Middle East. 

A second factor shaping the American outlook results from 
the fact t}^at_our prevailing philosophy of international rela- 
tions has been a curious blending of legalism and rationalism. 
'Lawlind reason are of course indispensable ingredients of an 
orderly life. They are precious fruits of the flowering of a 
free community and the good life. Ultimately peace becomes 
inevitable only when law and order prevail. However, the 
tragedy of much of our thinking has been to assume this 
ultimate end was either realized or shortly realizable and to 
tailor o ur word s and sometimes our deeds to fit this mistaken 
assumption. American lawyers whose influence on our foreign 
relations has been immense have more than once confused, 
the realities of municipal law with the hopes of international 
law. They have imposed on the international system burdens 
it could not bear. If the problem was war, it must be out- 
lawed (the Kellogg-Briand Pact). If the peril was aggression, 
a legal formula proscribing and defining it was the goal — 
even though a few months ago a United Nations Commission 
gave up this task in despair. If states trembled in a state of 
insecurity, reassure them with security pacts heaped one upon 
the other! If a state threatened the peace, pass a resolution! 
All these acts, so frequently a positive force in organized and 
integrated communities, have on balance weakened the feeble 
system of international order, for pacts, declarations, and 
formulas at odds with the realities of international life tempt 
the lawless to reckless adventures and the law-abiding to a 
whole chain of emotional responses, beginning with self- 




7^ 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

righteousness and indignation, shading off into disillusionment 
and finally into despair. 

If we have suffered from legalism, the price of liberal 
^r^^najism has beenr^dir~grea_ter. ir^Mr^ i5eerrsaid of. the 
_Xeague of Nations an d the Unit ed Nations that they represent 
_an a ttempt ^q^ply the pr inciples q fj ohn Locke's liberalism 
^to the machinery of inte rnational order. They carry into world 
affairs the outlook of a liberal democratic society. One rather 
acute critic has noted in some rational spokesmen the tendency 
to believe that there existed a card index of situations or events 
to be consulted for the appropriate and prescribed action 
whenever the event or situation turned up. There is a per- 
sistent temptation to value standardized procedures more than 
prudence, the perfection of machinery more than political 
wisdom. Four decades of experience in transplanting liberal 
rationalism to the world scene have taught that this approach, 
which logically is unexceptional, can be full of unforeseen 
difficulties. This is not the place to discuss these problems 
except to suggest that where prestige of states is involved, 
rational discussion is not always served by openjorums. Mr. 
Lester PearsoiTHas^lmtten of the problems of diplomacy in 
a "goldfish bowl." Moreover, responsible international con- 
duct is not guaranteed by gathering together representatives 
of over eighty states differing widely in size, power, and 
political, economic, and cultural developments. States not 
affected by events and not required to sacrifice vital interests 
can more easily strike poses than those whose security is in 
jeopardy. Nations with limited interests in a question may 
band together to outvote states whose survival may be at 
stake. It would be helpful to know how often uninstructed 
delegates on matters of no concern to their government throw 
their votes capriciously to the support of a resolution for 
which they would be unwilling to accept direct national re- 
sponsibility. It would be useful to discover how often states 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

turn to the United Nations when they are unwilling or unable 
to evolve a viable foreign policy of their own. 

To ask such questions is not to detract from the vital and 
constructive role of the United Nations. However, if this 
new international institution is to survive and grow, its mem- 
bers must face the hard facts concerning it. It provides a set 
of methods and procedures and embodies certain fundamental 
aims and goals. It can contribute only what its members bring 
to its affairs in the form of policies, resources, and loyalties. 
It will not in the foreseeable future be a substitute for foreign 
policy. When a nation's representatives are asked to state its 
policy for a certain area and they reply it will act through 
the United Nations, they have replied only to the procedural 
question. They can still be held to account for shaping a sub- 
stantive policy. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson 
in a statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee de- 
clared : 

"It will not do to say that the United Nations will deter- 
mine policy, make decisions, and enforce them. The United 
Nations is not a supranational entity with a mind, a will and 
power. It is a forum, and no more than the nations which 
meet there. Nothing more comes out of it than is put into it. 

"If a great nation, like the United States, looks to the 
United Nations to form American policy, instead of fighting 
in the United Nations for what the American Government 
believes should be done, then we have committed an unprece- 
dented abdication of responsibility and power. We deserve 
what we get. If we believe we have exhausted our responsi- 
bilities when we join in the United Nations to pass resolutions 
which are defied, and which we have no intention of backing 
up, we have engaged in a most dangerous form of self- 
deception." 

The second limitation on morality arises from the effects on 
international diplomacy of the dread conflict that rages today 
between giant organized systems of self -righteousness. The 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

most profound and far-reaching change in the last half-century 
is not the technological revolution or even the revolt of three- 
quarters of the world's people against so-called colonial 
domination. Rather, it has been the fragmentation of a for- 
merly cohesive international society into morally self-suffi- 
cient national communities. This change has brought civiliza- 
tion to the threshold of a twilight era in international morality. 
It has prompted Dean Roscoe Pound to say: "It might be 
maintained plausibly that a moral order among states was 
nearer attainment in the middle of the eighteenth century 
than it is today."^^ In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, 
and to a lessening degree up to the First World War, interna- 
tional morality addressed itself to a body of aristocratic 
sovereigns who spoke the same language, shared common 
cultural values, were bound by family ties, and, in a word, 
were members of the same club. Their goals were simple and 
limited. They might seek a piece of territory, a bit of glory 
or greater power and prestige. But the whole world was not 
their oyster and they accepted the fact that they were part- 
ners in an international order that "gentlemen" were pledged 
to preserve. 

This aristocratic fraternity of leaders who preferred speak- 
ing with one another rather than with their own peoples has 
passed and in its place is a leadership responsible to the popu- 
lar will. In consequence we witness the kaleidoscopic spectacle 
of a rapid and continuous turnover of diplomatists who must 
deal with one another. The popular selection of officials with 
all its potentialities for good has shattered the community of 
interests and the imponderable ties of loyalty and affection on 
which a crude but unmistakable personal international moral- 
ity had been based virtually from the seventeenth century until 
the eve of World War I. In this era the morality of individual 
leaders was identical with the morality of states. Lest we too 

^'^ Roscoe Pound, Philosophical Theory and International Law, Biblio- 
theca Visseriana (Leyden, 1923), Vol. I, p. 74. 

156 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

hastily dismiss the benefits that flowed from these ties, we 
need only reflect that Anglo-American unity has more recently 
been served by the comradeship of a Churchill and an Eisen- 
hower and that the former's dream enunciated as early as his 
Fulton Speech in 1947 was perceived and carried forward by 
the President in the Summit Meeting at Geneva. It is also 
worth noting that following the Suez crisis in late 1956 the 
crumbling Anglo-American alliance was strengthened when 
the President's wartime colleague became Prime Minister 
Macmillan. Moreover, these examples are the exceptions that 
prove the rule. Contrast them with the task of Ambassador 
Lodge working in the United Nations without benefit of long 
contact and friendly relations even with some of our Latin 
American and European allies. Or note the effects upon 
imaginative thinking of the mass exodus from Washington 
following 1952 of some of our most experienced diplomatists, 
e.g., that remarkable group surrounding George F. Kennan 
and Paul Nitze in the Policy Planning Staff. Furthermore, 
you may recall that in the eighteen months from July 1945 
to 1947, the U.S. had three secretaries of state and of all 
policy-making officials of the State Department i.e., under 
and assistant secretaries of state — in office as of October 1945 
none was still in office two years later. One need not despair 
of democracy to confess that this phenomenon of the rapid 
fluctuation of personnel with its consequences both for continu- 
ity of policy and community of interests with the leaders of 
other nations whose membership is similarly in flux presents 
us with a major problem. Observing this trend, Hans J. 
Morgenthau writes that ethical rules have their seat in the 
consciousness of individual men. "Government by clearly 
identifiable men who can be held personally accountable for 
their acts is therefore the precondition for the existence of an 
effective system of international ethics.""® 

This factor of a passing international corps of leaders is but 

^* Morgenthau, Politics among Nations^ p. 226. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

a symptom of an infinitely more profound transformation of 
international society. The fabric of moral consensus which 
existed among approximately equal political entities has been 
rent by the rise of separate and self-contained moral systems 
which today take the form of national political religions. 
These changes have weakened to the point of ineffectiveness 
supranational moral rules of conduct and have endowed par- 
ticular national ethical systems with universal validity. What 
is at stake today in the world conflict are systems of beliefs 
and ethical convictions. Gone is the era of the eighteenth 
century described by Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the 
Roman Em fire in which wars were "temperate and undecisive 
contests" which "cannot essentially injure our general state of 
happiness, the system of arts, and laws, and manners."^^ 

Righteousness plainly has a place in an assessment of the 
behavior of states. Yet the patterns of history are more com- 
plex than this. For example, we are often told that Germany 
has invaded France four times within a century and a quarter. 
Who among us remembers that on the first occasion it was 
England and Russia which finally induced the German powers 
to join them in rolling back the tide of Napoleonic empire? 
Who recalls that on a second occasion France made clear that 
if it won the War of 1870, it had in mind in Belgium, Luxem- 
bourg, and elsewhere a more scandalous aggrandizement than 
Bismarck ever dreamed of? Who is aware that the crime of 
Alsace-Lorraine begins not in 1871 but with the aggressions 
of Louis XIV? Multiply these instances a hundredfold and 
the whole tragically complex pattern of history unfolds and 
calls for understanding of a kind that is blurred rather than 
clarified by national self-righteousness, which destroys the 
international order and the prospects for an accommodation of 
interests on the basis of mutual respect and trust. 

The third limitation on the implanting of moral principle 

'^ Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Emfire (The 
Modern Library Edition), Vol. 11, pp. 93-95- 

158 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

has its origin in collective as distinct from individual morality, 
an issue on which the four writers place different degrees of 
emphasis. This is the other side of the coin from the self- 
righteousness discussed above. Religious ethics calls self-inter- 
est into question. Man must lose himself in order to find 
himself. At the level of organized communities, however, the 
problem of legitimate self-interest arises, inasmuch as politi- 
cal ethics takes self-interest for granted. A political leader 
cannot ask his people to sacrifice themselves. His first duty is 
to preserve the Constitution and he owes allegiance to the 
safety and well-being of the nation and of its generations yet 
unborn. Short of treason he cannot bargain away what he 
holds in trust. Moreover in another respect any equating of 
morality in individual relations with international morality is 
bound to be misleading. One of our great American Presidents 
who can hardly be dismissed for lack of moral fervor was 
Woodrow Wilson. In a lecture at Princeton he declared: 
"Morality is a great deal bigger than law. The individual 
morality is the sense of right or wrong of one man. The social 
morality must strike an average. This is where reformers 
make their tragic mistake. There can be no compromise in 
individual morality but there has to be a compromise, an 
average, in social morality. There is indeed an element of 
morality in the very fact of compromise in social under- 
takings.'"° In this same vein we recall the words of Cavour: 
"If we had done for ourselves what we did for the state, what 
scoundrels we would have been." 

Reinhold Niebuhr has distinguished between moral man 
and immoral society. While he has subsequently modified the 
sharp lines of his dichotomy, he would hold, I believe, to the 
"hidden truth" which this distinction lays bare. Accordingly, 
those virtues of gentleness, magnanimity, love, and trust which 

^° Quoted by Raymond Fosdick in "Personal Recollections of Woodrow 
Wilson" in Freedom for Man: A World Safe for Mankind, ed. by Quincy 
Wright (University of Chicago, 1957), p. 7. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

enrich the dimensions of our family life at its best and are 
possible in the more intimate communities in which we move 
and have our being, must be viewed with circumspection, 
reserve, and uncertainty on the world stage, where states 
through power and force press their claims and counterclaims. 
We may as moral beings deplore and renounce the evil 
portents of a massive armaments program, but who among us, 
if responsible for the nation's security, would have persisted 
in meeting Soviet power through compassion and the repudia- 
tion of force? Or who, confronted by the threat to Western 
civilization of the Nazi juggernaut, would have turned aside 
an alliance with the equally oppressive Russian communist 
regime? Burckhardt observed that "for every truth there is 
a balancing truth." Assertions such as those by Herbert Butter- 
field that the only morality is individual morality have to be 
seen in the light of the differences between the individual and 
the collectivity and the imperatives to which each must 
respond. 

A fourth limitation derives from the proposition that there 
are few if any absolutes in international politics. Lord Acton 
warned that "an absolute principle is as absurd as absolute 
power." In foreign relations particularly, every attempt to con- 
ceive political ethics in absolute terms has floundered on the 
shoals of circumstance. This is because broad moral principles 
seldom if ever can be said to furnish a direct, precise, and 
unambiguous guide to action. For example, the noble injunc- 
tion "Thou shalt not kill" has only a peripheral relevance 
when nations are suddenly plunged into total war. Moreover, 
less ultimate moral and political principles such as a belief in 
the common interests of, say, all the workers of Europe or of 
the world, scarcely deters British and German laborers from 
going to war against one another when their nations see their 
interests In conflict. 

There is another absolute principle with which Americans 
in particular are familiar. In the aftermath of World War I, 

160 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

we blithely assumed that the creation of democratic regimes 
everywhere would remove the threat of conflict. This tempt- 
ing illusion has since come home to haunt us. On one hand, 
it was illusory to believe we could play any more than a 
marginal role in shaping the evolution of other political 
systems beyond the jurisdiction of this nation. Not only is our 
power limited but, more fundamental, political institutions 
are matters of organic growth. The ways in which people 
move toward more enlightened government constitute the 
profoundest processes of national life. Nor are we persuaded 
any longer that we have penetrated the veil concealing the 
mystery of the absolutely best state for all peoples. The words 
of de Tocqueville written in 1831 about the United States 
have deeper meaning for us today: "The more I see of this 
country the more I admit myself penetrated with this truth: 
that there is nothing absolute in the theoretical value of politi- 
cal institutions, and that their efficiency depends almost always 
on the original circumstances and the social conditions of 
people to whom they are applied." In any event, the record 
is unmistakable that the trappings of democracy can be used 
for purposes as cruel and bellicose as those of autocratic 
regimes. One need only mention in passing the rise of totali- 
tarian democracies; the ability of tyrants, for example in the 
Middle East, to manipulate democratic machinery and sym- 
bols to their own selfish ends; the pattern of ideological 
conquest evolved during the libertarian French Revolution 
and the annexationist dreams of the German liberals of 1848. 

III. NECESSITY AND THE NEW BALANCE OF POWER 

Historians looking back on the events of international 
politics following World War II will doubtless stress the 
massive concentration of influence and authority in two world 
powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The novelty 
of this configuration may be seen by contrast with the seven- 
teenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries when numerous 

161 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

States of more or less equal power crowded the European 
landscape. The power of the Soviet Union so greatly over- 
shadowed that of any other European country that the whole 
of Western Europe buttressed by the United States was com- 
pelled to organize its military and economic resources to pre- 
serve the balance of power. In the same way, American power 
inspired an editorialist of The Economist (London) to say: 
"In any comparison of the potential resources of the Great 
Powers the United States, even before Hitler's war, far out- 
stripped every other nation in the world in material strength, 
in scale of industrialization, in weight of resources, in stand- 
ards of living, by every index of output and consumption. 
And the war, which all but doubled the American national 
income while it either ruined or severely weakened every 
other Great Power, has enormously increased the scale upon 
which the United States now towers above its fellows.'"^ 

This condition of two immensely powerful states, each 
commanding the homage and obedient cooperation of friendly 
if not client states, has obtained for the better part of the 
past decade. The objective basis on which the Soviet Union 
and the United States have founded their relationships has 
been what Winston Churchill described as a "balance of 
terror," not the mutual confidence and trust of moral con- 
sensus. Necessity and their respective power has induced the 
super-powers to follow policies of limitation and restraint as 
in Korea, Berlin, and Eastern Europe, even though the ele- 
ments that constitute the equilibrium of forces between them 
have continually shifted with advances in military technology. 
Bipolarity and the nature of Russian and American objectives 
have made possible a decade of uneasy peace, less because of 
morality than common sense. Harold Nicolson has observed: 
"Diplomacy is not a system of moral philosophy j it is, as Sir 
Ernest Satow defined it, 'the application of intelligence and 
tact to the conduct of official relations between the govern- 

^^ The Economist (London), May 24., 1947, p. 785. 

162 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

ments of independent States.' The worst kind of diplomatists 
are missionaries, fanatics and lawyers j the best kind are the 
reasonable and humane sceptics.'"^ Soviet diplomats plainly 
have not been noted for their tact, but the best among them 
have shown a skepticism and common sense, a preference for 
policies of advance and retreat, and have earned thereby the 
grudging respect of Western statesmen like the present British 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Captain Peter Thorneycroft: 
"The Russians are nothing if not realists.'"^ Nonetheless, 
until recently these restraints have resided in the political 
judgment of the leaders of two mighty states who had reason 
to assume they possessed greater power and virtue than the 
rest of the world. 

The new balance of power has altered the relationship 
between necessity and foreign policy and introduced novel 
limits and restraints on the actions of the two giants. The 
more than twenty nations which have emerged since the war 
and their friends in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia consti- 
tute a major force in world politics. Their ultimate power may 
be exaggerated by their strategic role in the United Nations, 
where they hold the balance of power, but their importance 
seems destined to increase in the future. Both Moscow and 
Washington have shown a consistent unwillingness to act 
without counting the consequences among the so-called under- 
developed countries. Beyond this the bipolar world has shown 
signs of crumbling on the edges of Soviet and American 
power and authority. Europe's crisis in October of 1956 had 
its roots in a rediscovery of national identity on that continent. 
For nearly a decade the postwar "Grand Alliance" between 
Europe and America was founded on mutual or identical 
interests. Both Europe's recovery and its security were guar- 
anteed by American power, for its recovery was an outgrowth 

^"Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy (London: Oxford University Press, 1939; 
second edition reprinted 1955), p. 50. 

^^Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 408, February 28, 1945, p. 1458. 

163 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

of the Marshall Plan and its security rested ultimately with 
our atomic monopoly. In this context it mattered little that 
certain concrete European interests in Asia and the Near East 
were sometimes at odds with American interests. Economic, 
political, and military necessity dictated that Europe stand 
with the United States or invite catastrophe and possibly na- 
tional suicide. Ironically, the success of European recovery 
followed by the withdrawal of Marshall aid undermined this 
concert of power and the Russian explosion of an atomic bomb 
came perilously close to shattering it. At this point Europe, 
far from being reassured by our stockpile of bombs, trembled 
in fear at the thought of being pulverized by one side or the 
other; nations like France and Britain, whose postwar policies 
had often been subordinated to American programs, stirred, 
questioned their policies, and reasserted their sovereign rights 
on such matters as the fulfillment of rearmament pledges (the 
British White Paper is merely the logical culmination of these 
tendencies accelerated, perhaps, by diplomatic ineptitudes on 
both sides). Chancellor Adenauer called for a United Europe 
capable of standing upon its own feet in a world threatening 
to pass it by, and a speaker of the BBC Third Programme 
predicted: "It is no longer so foolish to think of Western 
Europe as a potential Third Force." 

Simultaneously, the eruption within the Soviet Empire 
made it clear that unity of purpose in the East would no 
longer be taken for granted even under the shadow of the 
Red Army. On November 3, 1956, The Economist (London) 
commented: "By swift changes, the consequences of which 
are still incalculable, the peoples of Eastern Europe have 
ceased to be mere pawns on the political chessboard." Poland 
revolted for "Bread and Freedom," gained a new leader who 
symbolically enough had once been imprisoned for his "na- 
tionalist" tendencies, dismissed the Russian General Rokossov- 
sky as Minister of Defense, and installed a national Commu- 
nist regime. Nationalist sentiment again fanned the flames 

164 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

of revolt in Hungary, but Hungarians saw the control of 
events pass out of their hands. The historic consequences of 
these changes and their relationship to a more general up- 
heaval are beyond prediction, but their effect on the two-power 
world seem plainly beyond dispute, even though recent 
months have witnessed at least the temporary consolidation 
again of Soviet authority. 

More difficult by far is the question of the effect of these 
changes on international morality. At the risk of oversimplifi- 
cation I would suggest that the consequences are bound to 
be ambiguous. One effect of a multipower world will doubtless 
be to set restraints on conduct. The curious paradox of the 
present-day international realm is that great nations have 
never had more power, yet they have never had more trouble 
with the small nations they have the power to crush, and the 
voices of students and peasants in Poland and Hungary and 
rising national groups in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East 
are commanding more and more widespread attention. Injus- 
tice threatens most whenever great weakness is confronted by 
unlimited power. Perhaps this is why victorious nations wreak 
vengeance on conquered foes. This tendency has been allayed 
by the rise of competing centers of power, and out of the 
claims and counterclaims of a number of countries for influ- 
ence and respect a rough and approximate justice may result. 
The ability of the smaller powers ultimately to use nuclear 
force theoretically might exert the same decisive effect on all 
use of force that now prevails in Soviet and American calcula- 
tions vis-a-vis one another. Necessity might compel them to 
turn to the peaceful pursuit of their goals. 

However, there is also something terrifying about the 
specter of twenty or more states brandishing absolute weapons. 
For example, possession of these lethal weapons by Egypt 
might have deterred the Franco-British-Israeli intervention 
but one or the other side might also have been tempted to use 
them with a tragically fatal and chain reaction effect. With 

165 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the multiplication of the producers, the prospect of their use 
through an accident or in frenzy increases perhaps in geo- 
metric proportion. Moreover, there are risks as well as oppor- 
tunities in the sudden catapulting of new and inexperienced 
nations to positions of unaccustomed prominence and world 
leadership. They will not always be right. Almost without 
exception they lack apprenticeship in the subtleties and uncer- 
tainties of world affairs. Their will, as expressed in the 
liberum veto of the holder of the balance of power in the 
United Nations, is not necessarily the embodiment of wisdom 
and virtue. In recent months the trend has become more 
pronounced to equate the positive law of the United Nations 
with moral law. In view of the structure of this body and its 
original purposes, this solution of the moral dilemma in 
foreign policy raises as many questions as it answers. Especially 
in the context of American attitudes on foreign policy, the 
tendency to covet popularity and gratitude, to seek a more 
intimate relation with other nations than is possible, to be too 
apologetic toward the underdeveloped countries, and to be 
forever on the defensive with those who hold up our more 
extravagant professions of principle to our practice — these 
recent changes in the balance of power and our instinctive 
responses are as much a cause for sober reflection as for 
dancing in the streets. It would be a fatal error if, beguiled 
by the new configurations of power, American philosophers 
and policy-makers should assume that because of our sympathy 
for the newer states, we had transcended for the first time in 
American history the inevitable tension between necessity and 
principle. 

IV. NOTES ON A THEORY OF INTERNATIONAL 

MORALITY 

Whatever the limits of moral principles, there is need for 
the type of normative theories discussed at the outset of this 
chapter. The late Charles A. Beard in considering the role of 

166 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

moral principle suggested that : "the mandate of moral obliga- 
tion appears to be operative in three spheres which, on occa- 
sion, seem to overlap: (i) the nation itself, as something of 
an independent entity; (2) the nation in respect of other 
single nations and certain limited groups of nations; and 
(3) the nations as one unit in a larger whole made up of many 
diverse units forming what is commonly called the community 
of nations.'"* 

It may be useful, taking this conceptual scheme as our clue, 
to consider three possible layers or dimensions of international 
morality. Scholars relating these three levels of morality 
might uncover new insights on the relationship of principle 
and necessity. A concluding note on one possible theoretical 
framework for approaching these tantalizing and awesome 
problems may be in order. 

The core of this threefold concept is found in the moral 
content of the national interest. Whereas it is obvious that 
the first duty of a nation's foreign policy must be to safeguard 
its territorial integrity and the interests of present and future 
generations, it should also be clear that the moral values of 
any society are so protected and defended. The nation-state 
is both the problem-child of international relations and the 
highest effective expression of a genuine moral consensus in 
large communities. More progress has been made in creating 
freedom and order and opportunities for the individual, say, 
within the United States, than in any foreseeable international 
community. Moreover, nations can in practice usually give 
moral content, however modest, to their national self-interest 
while the international interest is more vague and ill-defined. 

The moral dignity of the national interest finds expression 
in various spheres. The interests of a nation's people in its 
basic values and common welfare transcending sub-national 
loyalties are an antidote to crass materialism. The mere exist- 
ence of a citizenry that takes its history and tradition seriously 

^* Charles A. Beard, The Idea of National Interest (New York: Mac- 
millan Co., 1934), p. 401. 

167 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

assures that a nation's reputation shall not perish nor its will 
to stay alive be destroyed. The sense of membership and of 
partnership in a common enterprise with ancestors who have 
gone before and heirs who are to follow gives moral stamina 
and political vitality to a society. Moreover, national attach- 
ments are the one sure and sound basis for transcending 
partisan political loyalties. In a period of crisis in British poli- 
tics, Winston Churchill counseled his fellow conservatives: 
"We are Party men but we shall be all the stronger if in every 
action we show ourselves capable, even in this period of stress 
and provocation, of maintaining the division — where there is 
division — ^between national and party interests.'"^ 

In general a more tolerable relationship is achieved between 
nations who speak in their national interest than those who 
claim to speak for the whole world. Hence states, while 
asserting the moral integrity of their interests, ought never 
to see them too exclusively as ends in themselves. World pat- 
terns are too complex and variegated to reserve all virtue to 
a single state or course of action. The periods of greatest de- 
cline in international morality have come when national 
purposes have been presented as pure and unsullied goals for 
acceptance or rejection by the rest of the world. There is an 
Important area In foreign policy where national Interests must 
be asserted confidently and with pride and courage. Indeed, 
Americans sometimes run the risk, having proclaimed our 
virtue and indulged In all manner of pretentious talk, of 
alternately feeling shame over the fact that we are a great 
power with a noble tradition and shrinking when not everyone 
loves us. Our actions will be more honored and esteemed if 
we are somewhat more humble about equating them with 
final and absolute virtue. They can be justified as necessary 
and proper steps without casting them In the form of crusades 
and filling the air with the most extravagant claims. 

^^ Winston S. Churchill, speech to "Conservative Annual Conference," 
October 14, 1949. Reprinted in collected speeches In the Balance^ p. 329. 

168 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

A second dimension is the converse of the national interest. 
The one thing which saves the idea of the national interest 
from itself is its essential reciprocity. To the extent that na- 
tions are in earnest not alone about their own self-interests 
but in their recognition of the application of similar criteria by 
others, the national interest as a guide escapes any temptation 
to conceal real designs for world aggrandizement. Edmund 
Burke declared : "Nothing is so fatal to a nation as an extreme 
of self-partiality, and the total want of consideration of what 
others will naturally hope or fear.'"® After a nation has deter- 
mined its own objective interests in terms of its national 
security, it has an obligation to draw back, as it were, and 
appraise coolly and realistically the interests of its neighbors. 
In this way alone can nations decide if their interests are 
compatible or can be adjusted. There is no other basis for 
true coexistence. It is as tempting as it is hazardous to treat 
other peoples as pawns in the struggle to preserve one's own 
national interest. There is a tendency to treat other nations as 
means instead of as ends embodied in their own national 
purposes. Yet particularly in relations with those societies in 
Asia and Africa which have most frequently been treated as 
instruments to be used and exploited by others, their claims 
upon international society to accord them means of national 
recognition and personal self-respect make such a tendency 
well-nigh fatal. It is essential that every nation pursue wisely 
its own best interests, but the pathway for each nation must 
not be strewn with the remnants of the interests of others 
that were forgotten in its headlong drive to attain national 
security. Among nations with decent intentions there must be 
a reciprocal process of recognizing each other's vital interests 
and avoiding collisions and conflicts insofar as it is possible 
through the compromise of divergent interests. Interests are 
capable of being compromised j principles can never be made 

^^ Edmund Burke, "Remarks on the Policy of the Allies with Respect 
to France" (1793), Works (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1889), Vol. iv, 
p. 447. 

169 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the object of bargains. Yet if nations are to survive somehow 
they must find ways of compromising their differences while 
at the same time protecting and safeguarding their interests. 
As it is the essence of politics that individuals possess the 
capacity to compromise their differences, the art of diplomacy 
merely raises this process to the level of nations and founds 
it upon a structure of multiple national interests. Conflicts 
which seem at the time to present to the parties a clear case 
of right and wrong, almost without exception have appeared 
to future historians, less blinded by passion and loyalty, as 
something infinitely more tragic than good men fighting bad. 
The real pattern of conflict and war is one of minor differ- 
ences hardening into intractable political divisions, of men 
faced by terrible dilemmas and of nations eventually driven 
by the inner dialectic of events to wars that no one desired. 
The difference between a struggle between good and evil 
and actual struggles in world politics in which every party 
in some way is at fault but is unable to disengage itself from 
the tragic predicament of fearing others but never compre- 
hending their counter-fears is the difference between the 
substance of "heroic" and "revisionist" or scientific history. In 
this predicament, each party has a sense of its own insecurity 
but never imagines that its own righteous efforts could have 
anything to do with the insecurity of others. After each mili- 
tary conflict, the minds of the early or "heroic" historians 
are locked in the combat expounding their own nation's cause. 
Their judgments are generally the kind that stem from self- 
righteousness. Subsequently, it remains for "revisionist" his- 
torians to rewrite the narrative in terms of the mutual fear 
of each side for the power of the other. In their histories of 
conflict the revisionist schools have frequently proved that we 
have muddied the waters and darkened our minds about the 
true nature of a struggle when it has been interpreted in 
terms of certain accidental characteristics. In the present crisis 
between East and West, for example, historians may show 

170 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

that the ideological aspect of the struggle was accidental in 
comparison to the more profound and underlying political 
struggle. In this tragic predicament, the one source of relief 
from the struggle can come from the accommodation of con- 
flicting political interests. The first step in this process is to 
discover what are the vital interests of the foe. The one 
escape from this human predicament is the patient quest of 
mutually compatible national interests if they are found to 
exist. A firm and steady endeavor to find out what are the 
interests of the other party to a crisis provides any nation 
with some basis for predicting its action and in the same way 
of anticipating the faithfulness of its allies. 

There is a form of political morality that stems from a 
decent regard for the interests of others. While it is not always 
the same as the private ethics enjoined by the great religions, 
it nonetheless is expediency grounded in morality. In the 
writings of philosophers from the Greeks to Edmund Burke, 
it is identified as prudence or practical morality 5 in guide- 
books to diplomacy like Richelieu's Political Testament^ it 
appears as expediential morality. It has been considered the 
lubricant by which the smooth workings of international so- 
ciety are made possible and in modern times as the cement 
without which the sturdiest alliance will crumble. It is too 
much to expect that nations will show gratitude or lasting 
affection for one another. Generosity is as likely to produce 
envy, resentment, and contempt as good will, for no govern- 
ment based on popular support can afford to acknowledge 
the full scale of its dependence on others. But there are other 
personal factors that are not inconsequential. Diplomats, as 
has been said, are men sent abroad to lie and deceive in the 
interests of their country. But, as Harold Nicolson points out, 
they must also return to negotiate another day. If a diplomat 
or nation is known to be habitually retrograde in the observ- 
ance of obligations, it can hardly look forward to long and 
effective diplomatic commerce with others. Winston Churchill 

171 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

measured this dimension of international morality in these 
words: "There is, however, one helpful guide, namely for a 
nation to keep its word and to act in accordance with its treaty 
obligations to allies. This guide is called honour. It is baffling 
to reflect that what men call honour does not correspond al- 
ways to Christian ethics. . . . An exaggerated code of honour 
leading to the performance of utterly vain and unreasonable 
deeds should not be defended, however fine it might look.'"^ 
A final or third layer of international morality comprises 
general principles like opposition to tyranny, or community, 
or values embodied in the United Nations Charter. Men seem 
obstinately to reject the view that state behavior at some point 
is not a fit subject for moral judgment. One sign that this 
principle is accepted as relevant is the apparent compulsion of 
political actors to justify their needs in moral terms. Hypocrisy 
is the tribute vice pays to virtue. Beyond this there is a striking 
dialectical movement of expediency and morality which has 
its impact on international politics. Moves in practical politics 
must be articulated in such a way as to pay tribute to moral 
principles. However limited and particular, acts of political 
expedience must seem to carry forward aims of justice and 
the common good. Thus political morality in these modest 
terms forces the statesman who would justify expediency with 
ethics to choose his measures so that on some points at least 
the practical and moral march hand in hand. "It is political 
wisdom to act successfully in accord with the interests of state. 
It is political and moral wisdom to choose the most moral of 
several alternatives through which both expedience and ethics 
may be served." The margin which separates cynicism from 
this form of wisdom is frequently narrow indeed, but by it 
the statesman is saved from a fatuous "moralism" or the 
despair of unqualified expediency. It is the essence of moral 
judgment to transcend the limits of expediency and narrow 
self-interest in this one sense at least. 

^"^ Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin Co., 1949), pp. 320-21. 

172 



THE LIMITS OF PRINCIPLE 

Principle in this final sense is an ultimate objective, not an 
immediate guide to action. It is a lodestone of moral conduct, 
not a mere ideological rationalization by which practical steps 
are legitimatized. Principles in this sense are concepts held by 
statesmen whose reach quite self-consciously exceeds their 
grasp. Whereas their implementation in practice is dependent 
upon considerations of the national interest, they shine in the 
firmament of political philosophy as objective standards of 
political behavior. In any full and complete political system 
there must be room both for philosophy and action, yet there 
can be no more serious error than to confound these two 
conditions. The realms of ideals and practice are not the same, 
yet it is equally false to imagine they can never meet. If the 
vertical dimension be conceived as of the line of ideals, it does 
intersect at certain points in history the horizontal dimension 
of political practice. In this respect principle in relation to 
contingencies and necessity has a role to play. 



173 



CHAPTER 5 



THE PROBLEM OF ISOLATIONISM AND 
COLLECTIVE SECURITY 



The Citizens of the United States cherish sentiments 
the most friendly, in favor of the liberty and happiness of 
their fellowmen on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars 
of the European powers, in matters relating to them- 
selves, we have never taken any part, nor does it comport 
with our policy, so to do. It is only when our rights are 
invaded, or seriously menaced, that we resent injuries, 
or make preparations for our defense. — message of 

PRESIDENT MONROE TO CONGRESS, DECEMBER 2, I 823 



Large-scale social ideas, like far-flung empires, often have 
their birth less in closely reasoned philosophies than in a burst 
of popular passion or a fit of absent-mindedness. Of course it 
is comforting to modern intellectuals to assert that major 
political concepts and doctrines result from rational analysis 
rooted in historical consciousness. We are all sufficiently the 
children of the Enlightenment to cling stubbornly to the view 
that history is the result of unfolding truth and that institu- 
tions stem from controlling ideas or are the long shadows of 
a great man's philosophy. We fondly believe that a good 
political idea will outlast a bad or faulty one. Writ large, 
this principle may be true, yet it may also be true that "emo- 
tion, not intellect, is the dynamic of history." Historians 
beholden to this second approach insist that massive social 
forces carry men along and that philosophies or ideas become 
mere rationalizations to account for experiences. One must 
hasten to add that any simple determinist viewpoint chal- 
lenging the creative and originative role of ideas is equally 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

fraught with ambiguity and peril. For example, large portions 
of mankind have apparently accepted the maxim that circum- 
stances control the lives of men and ultimately their ideas. 
Whereas traditionally men held that ideas ruled the world 
and served as guides to action, today ideas are viewed as, 
at best, ideologies. In the Soviet world the doctrine of dia- 
lectical materialism has challenged the independent role of 
ideas, whereas in the West the religion of progress has pre- 
vailed. The historical fruits of these doctrines give no occasion 
for rejoicing that modern thought has unraveled the endless 
dilemmas that arise in relating ideas to social action. 

It may, therefore, be appropriate that today we are wit- 
nessing a reexamination of certain major approaches to recent 
international relations and to the ideas underlying them. This 
inquiry causes us to ask whether our established truths are 
quite as firmly rooted as we had supposed. Some of our wisest 
observers question whether we hold too passionately and 
unreservedly to faith in the multiplication of security systems 
or emergent international government or less ambitious ex- 
periments like NATO, SEATO, and the Baghdad Pact. They 
urge us to explore today the foundations of collective security 
as it emerged from the Paris Peace Conference in 19 19 in 
the same way that during the 1930's and early 1940's we 
questioned the supremacy both for theory and practice of 
"splendid isolation." This is a legitimate intellectual endeavor 
provided we apply standards of comparable rigor to the com- 
peting trends we explore. One way of doing this is to examine 
these major tendencies in the light of history and of some of 
the more basic conceptions of international relations and to 
test the assumptions and picture of the world which lie at the 
roots of isolation and collective security historically and, to 
the degree they persist, up to the present. 



175 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

I. isolationism: idea, impulse, or interest? 

America's foreign relations over the years are no exception 
to the cardinal rule that objective conditions largely shape and 
govern a nation's external relations. For approximately one 
hundred and thirty-four years from the Treaty of Paris in 
1783 until World War I, the United States was relatively 
immune from the European struggle for power. We some- 
times forget that in 1783 at the moment of victory in the 
struggle for independence, the Continental Congress reduced 
the army to a strength of eighty privates. On the signing of 
the Constitution, the demands of the western frontier had 
increased the number to five hundred. As late as 1837, 
Abraham Lincoln could speak of the impregnable status of 
the national domain even "in a trial of a thousand years" with 
the entire military potential of Europe, Asia, and Africa 
marshalled by a Napoleon. Indeed, not more than four dec- 
ades ago an American President provided for the abolition 
of the army's staff division for war plans on the grounds that 
we did not contemplate involvement in war. This singular 
good fortune resulted from a convergence of at least three 
factors: America's geographical position and remoteness from 
Europe, the European balance of power, and the absence of 
strong and hostile neighbors. Even so, it must be noted that 
the United States fought two wars with its only powerful 
neighbor. Great Britain, and went to the brink with several 
others. These misfortunes inspired the kind of caution re- 
flected as late as June 2, 1937, by Secretary of State Cordell 
Hull, who told four members of the House of Representatives 
who visited him in connection with the application of the 
Neutrality Act to Germany and Italy: "This is not our war. 
We must be cautious. We must be quiet."^ 

What, then, can we say about isolationism? Is it or has it 

^Quoted in Survey of International Affairs, 1938 (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1938), Vol. il, p. 17. 

176 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

ever been a carefully worked out philosophy or idea of inter- 
national relations? Or is it primarily a national impulse 
reflecting the deeply felt but inchoate needs of the people? 
Or can we associate it with certain interest groups striving to 
assert and to rationalize their claims? Perhaps all three condi- 
tions are true, but if we examine the roots of isolationism the 
emphasis will probably fall more on one than on the others. 

One way of encompassing our problem and fencing it in may 
be by enumerating the elements of isolationism as they are 
writ large in recent American history. One ingredient is un- 
doubtedly the role of immigrant groups. They had shaken 
the dust of Europe from their feet and had crossed the 
Atlantic in the spirit of a "chosen people." They shared the 
intellectual and emotional tradition of men who have come 
out from a house of bondage into the "promised land." For 
them the dogma that they were not as other men was less an 
audacious paradox than an unquestioned truism. Their faith 
was reflected in a holy mission embodied in a century and a 
half of experience that served to confirm to a remarkable 
extent their underlying creed. Moreover, sacred sentiments 
and hallowed traditions stand above and beyond discussion, 
self-criticism, and compromise. In this, we shall discover, 
isolationism and collective security have something basically 
in common. 

The immigrant in American life becomes a particularly 
crucial factor if we accept the view that proclamations of 
isolationism increasingly were founded more upon an attitude 
and frame of mind than on any clear conception of America's 
international situation. Immigrants held to the common 
conviction that their new country was alter orbis and that it 
behooved them to demonstrate unquestioning fealty to their 
new sovereign. They were prone to accept the sometimes 
historically relevant description of Europe as a region of 
"ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice." Power 
politics was an invention of Western Europe that Europe's 

177 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

heirs on the shores of North America were expected to spurn. 

A second factor which nurtured an isolationist outlook was 
the continuing appeal of an essentially libertarian and anti- 
militaristic view of America's destiny. A succession of ex- 
tremely able philosophers and writers found nonaggressive 
and abstentionist terms of reference to describe the nation's 
mission. Thus John C. Calhoun conceived that Americans 
would "do more to extend liberty by our example over this 
continent and the world generally, than would be done by a 
thousand victories." Protesting against the tendencies inherent 
in the Spanish-American War, William Graham Sumner 
wrote: "Expansion and imperialism are a grand onslaught on 
democracy . . . [they] are at war with the best traditions, 
principles, and interests of the American people."^ Sumner 
saw European power politics as diametrically opposed to 
American ideals and heralded the Spanish-American War as 
the end of our cherished liberties. Indeed the notion that 
isolation is the one means of preserving democracy runs as 
a continuous theme from the views of the Founding Fathers 
to Senators William Borah and Robert A. Taft. It is clearly 
among the fundamentals of isolationist thought. 

A corollary of this libertarian doctrine has been the em- 
phasis on economics over politics. John Adams declared that 
he would lay down as a first principle of foreign policy that 
"we should calculate all our measures and foreign negotia- 
tions in such a manner, as to avoid too great dependence 
upon any power of Europe . . . that the business of America 
with Europe was commerce, not politics or war."^ The term 
"treaty" itself was used in an early period of American history 
less often as an indication of a political bond than in a traite 
de commerce. Franklin spoke of exchanging "commerce for 

2 "The Conquest of the United States by Spain," Essays of William 
Graham Sumner (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), Vol. Ii, 
p. 295. 

^Letter to Secretary Livingston, Paris, February 5, 1783, The Works 
of John Adams^ ed. by Charles Francis Adams, 1850-56, Vol. viii, p. 35. 

178 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

friendship" and is reported to have offered the French agent 
in Philadelphia un commerce exclusif. In the early days of 
the Revolution the colonies were dependent upon foreign aid 
and the greater part of their gunpowder came from across 
the seas. In March 1776 Adams sketched out what he con- 
ceived as a proper form of alliance with France based upon 
the following formula: "i. No officers from her. 2. No mili- 
tary connection. Receive no troops from her. 3. Only a com- 
mercial connection 5 that is, make a treaty to receive her ships 
into our ports j let her engage to receive our ships into her 
ports J furnish us with arms, cannon, saltpetre, powder, duck 
and steel."* 

In seeking to replace an international order of politics 
among nations with one of commerce between states, the 
colonists were following eighteenth-century thought. They 
had learned from the fhilosofhes the tradition that was to 
become one of the pillars on which isolationism was to rest — 
though one must hasten to add that this tradition supported 
equally well at least one internationalist strain of thought. 
We must look to this tradition, however, to understand the 
objects of government and of foreign policy at the founding 
of the Republic. They were solely and simply to protect the 
individual in the exercise of certain rights. The nation's soil 
must be safeguarded from military or political intrusion and 
citizens must be protected and assisted when their activities, 
which were normally commercial, religious, or cultural, spilled 
over national boundaries. These two functions — promoting 
national security and private American economic activities 
abroad — were all that flowed from the original objects of 
American society. This libertarian view was put forth in the 
1920's again by men like Senators William Borah, Hiram 
Johnson, and George Norris. There were, to be sure, a limited 
group who gave expression in a spirit of missionary zeal to 

* John Adams, Works, Vol. ii, pp. 488-89. 

179 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the spread of "republicanism" as early as the Greek Rebellion 
in 1 820-1 821 but in the first century or more of our history, 
liberty and isolation were commonly joined. 

A third element, and perhaps the most basic, is the expan- 
sionist program which carried Americans westward across a 
vast continent that was virtually empty but enormously rich. 
From the French wars of the eighteenth century to the close 
of the nineteenth century, the American purpose was to open 
up a continental territory, to consolidate it within the Union, 
and to make it as invulnerable as possible against other powers. 
The struggle to secure a new continent officially ended only 
in 1890 with the close of the last of our thirty-seven wars 
with the Indians. Diplomacy opened the way for a series of 
successes that make all the more remarkable popular disdain 
of negotiations. To mention but a few notable successes: the 
Jay Treaty, the Louisiana Purchase, the Florida Annexation, 
the acquisition of Texas, the Oregon boundary settlement, 
the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Gadsden Purchase, 
the annexation of Alaska, and the establishment of American 
rights in an isthmian canal. 

Ironically, the true believers in a policy of taming the 
continental domain are today called isolationists. Yet the 
memory of their struggles against foreign powers, the wilder- 
ness, and the Indians should make it plain that if they stood 
for anything in practice it was not pacifism or withdrawal. The 
words of our early leaders — Washington, Adams, Monroe, 
and their successors — must be viewed in historical context. 
When Washington urged political separation from Europe, 
he was painfully aware that his new nation was surrounded 
by unfriendly foreign powers. To assure a free hand for 
expansion to the West, his successors frequently quoted the 
words of his Farewell Address: "The great rule of conduct 
for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our com- 
mercial relations to have with them as little political connec- 
tion as possible." Moreover, it was to bring about the evacua- 

180 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

tion of the last frontier post held by British soldiers on 
American soil and to assure the opening for settlement of the 
Ohio Valley that Washington defended the unpopular Jay 
Treaty. Expansionists in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century 
America wished to isolate the continental domain and the 
Western Hemisphere, to conquer it not as an empire but as 
"a new domicile of freedom," and to accomplish their ends 
not in response to domination by others but with freedom of 
action. The expansionist impulse carried Americans westward 
to the Pacific, where at the mid-nineteenth century they 
paused at the "water's edge." 

It is curious how the expansionist urge has characterized 
the programs of both political parties in the United States. 
Even present-day Republicans, who until recently clung to 
isolationism, have been imperialists and interventionists in 
Asia. Their political predecessors, having presided over the 
settlement and development of the west, consolidated the 
Union under Lincoln, saw the frontiers disappear, and were 
responsible in 1867 for the purchase of Alaska. They annexed 
Hawaii. They conquered the Philippines. They have provided 
their share of demagogues who exploited the aspirations of 
those looking westward to the promised land. The fervor of 
this expansionist program toward Asia reduced the energy 
which could be directed to participation in European affairs. 
In Louis Halle's words: "While the image of Europe has 
traditionally aroused in us a cherished sense of escape, the 
image of the Far East has tended, rather, to invite our 
proselytization." Some of our friends abroad have suggested 
that the Far East historically has offered opportunities of 
dominion and influence denied to us in Europe. 

Alongside the expansionist tradition there is also an anti- 
expansionist view respecting our course of empire to the west. 
It reflects itself in the "little United States" line of thought 
deriving from Hamilton j in the arguments, albeit constitu- 

181 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

tional, against the Louisiana Purchase j in certain Whig atti- 
tudes on the Mexican War, and in the polemics against 
expansion in 1812. It may give us a clue to another and partly 
contradictory source of isolationism, namely, a reluctance to 
embrace the full powers of the Executive Office. C. B. Mar- 
shall suggests that isolationism "was the logical and prudent 
condition of U.S. foreign relations in the epoch of creating 
a nation from the potpourri of ethnic origins and filling out 
a continental range, and represented a realistic appreciation 
of the conditions of power during those decades." 

By referring to these three elements of isolationism — the 
role of immigrant or ethnic groups, the libertarian traditions, 
and westward expansion — we have of course hardly made 
contact with the central problem of the existence of a theory 
of isolationism. In one sense it is futile to talk of a theory of 
isolationism, for the term is charged with emotion and has 
increasingly acquired pejorative connotations. Isolationism 
and the mythology surrounding it suggest inaction, passivity, 
lethargy, and withdrawal. Is it any wonder that those who 
espouse isolationism prefer to be called nationalists, conti- 
nentalists, or even "America Firsters"? If isolationism is 
seldom if ever professed but rather ascribed or imputed to 
objects of attack, a coherent, self-conscious, and self-critical 
theory seems almost beyond reach. Isolationism is not a theory 
but a predicament, we are told. Or, it is useful "only insofar 
as it indicates the misunderstanding of an ideology, serves 
as a point of departure for investigation, and contains in its 
connotations certain suggestive half-truths."^ 

These criticisms and impressions suggest that whereas isola- 
tionism may be either an impulse or the reflection of interests 
or interest groups, it is surely not a theory. Before we accept 
this judgment, however, we should perhaps look somewhat 

^ Alfred Weinberg, "The Historical Meaning of the American Doctrine 
of Isolationism," American Political Science Revie<w^ Vol. xxxiv, No. 3, 
June 1940, p. 539. 

182 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

further. It may be that we shall find a deposit of ideas, beliefs, 
and values that can be analyzed and assessed. 

The historian Alfred Weinberg has written: "In all serious- 
ness, isolation is not a theory of American foreign policy. 
Isolation is a theory about a theory of American foreign 
policy."® Who coined the word? If we view isolation in 
strictest terms, Washington can hardly be called its father. 
He warned against too much foUtkal connection, but this 
scarcely inhibited him from agreements respecting commerce 
and trade, nor did it stand in the way of completing an alliance 
with France. Following Washington, few of his successors 
harked back to an avowedly isolationist course, although 
Seward spoke of the first President's counsel as one of isola- 
tion if "superficially viewed." For the most part not the 
advocates of a policy of self-limitations but their opponents 
seeking to discredit them made a doctrine out of isolationism — 
criticizing, for example, those who opposed crusades like 
mid-nineteenth century support of revolutionary liberalism of 
Europe. The reserve of the isolationists was exaggerated and 
made into a weapon of political warfare. 

Perhaps the core idea of isolationism is what has been called 
"national reserve" or "a deliberate and more or less regular 
abstention from certain political relationships." It is an attempt 
to isolate a state from entangling foreign relations. Plainly, 
such a concept is not an American invention. It has its paral- 
lels in the "Little England" movement in the nineteenth 
century, certain Australian attitudes, and, far broader, in the 
universal human desire to think first about things nearest 
home. It amounts to the nonjuridical side of sovereignty. It 
finds expression wherever sovereign states seek maximum 
self-determination or freedom of action. Its American version, 
however, has accented aspects that are not everywhere stressed. 
Take, for example, nonentanglement. Ideally, in a world 

6 Ibid. 

183 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

devoid of conflicts, self-determination might entitle a state to 
freedom from all alien interference. In the real world, it 
oftentimes requires treaties of mutual aid or alliances de- 
signed to safeguard independence itself. Because of America's 
geographical detachment, the place of alliances seemed dis- 
tant and remote. Gradually this antipathy and suspicion of 
treaties spilled over into resistance to every source of entangle- 
ment, including policies, designed to promote commerce 
which might lead to political contacts or to parallel but 
independent foreign policies of two or more states. Non- 
entanglement was possible for a country in the Western 
Hemisphere but with rare exceptions for nation-states squeezed 
together in the heart of Europe it would have destroyed 
independence and with it all "freedom of action." What 
would have happened, for example, to the states making up 
a coalition against Napoleon if they had maintained that 
sovereignty involved freedom from all entangling alliances? 
Certain basic assumptions underlying America's approach to 
foreign policy, such as confidence in our self-sufficiency, a 
belief in the divergence of our interests from those of others, 
and a sense of moral and political superiority, gave a unique 
flavor to American isolationism. There was a residual deposit 
of ideas, about which we shall have more to say later, which 
formed the theoretical basis of our isolationism. But, instead 
of bringing these concepts to the surface, giving them their 
due, and adapting them to changing circumstances, both 
friends and foes of isolation saw fit to erect such temporary 
expedients or instruments of isolationism as "nonentangle- 
ment" into ends or absolutes in themselves. 

There are other examples of ideas and policies that may 
have served the basic idea of reserve and freedom of action 
but are scarcely equivalent. Nonintervention became such a 
doctrine for some American makers of policy who defined it 
in extremis to mean any trespass upon the external or internal 
sovereignty of others not warranted by a life-or-death defense 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

of our most vital interests. Underlying this was a fear of 
counter-intervention and an obsession with the perils of being 
caught up in the swift currents of international life. Interna- 
tional law and its rules respecting intervention figured less 
prominently, for in one sense American policies of noninter- 
vention have been sui generis. 

The problem of a theory of isolationism is therefore 
weighted down with difficulties and uncertainties. There is a 
central idea that supports all the partial insights we have 
mentioned. It is in effect the concept Washington enunciated 
when he spoke about retaining "command of our fortunes." 
Its servants are policies of "reserve." Yet this idea has ex- 
pressed itself in a variety of creeds and dogmas which include 
"noninterference and nonparticipation in European politics," 
"avoidance of joint action," "insulation against entanglement," 
and all the other principles cited above. Moreover, these lim- 
ited concepts became sanctified and encrusted with tradition 
until they were no longer conceived as "counsels of prudence." 
They hardened into iron rules for conduct. The manifold 
ingredients making up isolationism prevented the isolationist 
from looking for consistency and opposed the crystallizing of 
a perceptive theory. It made isolationism a "happy hunting 
ground" for politicians and invited fierce and impassioned 
debate instead of reasoned analysis. Writing of the so-called 
theory, one scholar has noted: "Because this interpretation is 
a poor theory, misrepresentative even if taken only semi- 
literally, it has placed the discussion of American foreign 
policy in a bad predicament of obfuscation, not without its 
influence upon national decisions. "'^ 

In consequence we are likely to find the mainsprings of 
isolationism in the play of national impulse and of interest 
and ethnic groups. This is a theme that runs through the 
inquiries by Samuel Lubell, and it is one which in its myriad 
complexity deserves the careful analysis and attention he gives 

^ Ibid. 

185 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

to it. Our purpose here is merely to suggest that as a theory- 
isolationism was deficient not because it lacked certain residual 
truths but as a result of the way in which these truths were 
restricted and exploited in political practice. Consequently 
anti-European and more particularly anti-English sentiment — 
most notably expressed by the Irish, the Germans, and the 
Swedes — was more important than any rational set of isola- 
tionist ideals. Thus isolationism as a whole has not been a 
constant force nor a stable doctrine with a unique ideology. 
It has fluctuated in response to given situations and reflected 
ideas and attitudes of differing groups which espoused it as 
suited their interests. Moreover, these ideas tended to calcify, 
making difficult the rapid shifts and adjustments of policies 
that were required. 

There was a final weakness preventing the emergence of a 
rational theory of isolationism that would do justice equally 
to the uniformities, ambiguities, and complexities of interna- 
tional life. This weakness may be illustrated by a reference 
to the late Senator Robert A. Taft. If any isolationist or 
neo-isolationist might have been expected to leave an endur- 
ing legacy of isolationist theory, it would be a man of Taft's 
intelligence and integrity. Yet one looks in vain for consistency 
and coherence in the foreign policies he embraced. Prior to 
World War II, he held to a policy of neutrality, maintaining 
that we had nothing to fear from Germany or from the 
deterioration of the European situation. He predicted that 
the outcome of a war in Europe would have no bearing on 
American security j we could easily defend ourselves. Yet the 
logic of his position was undermined by his support for sub- 
stantial and ever-increasing defense costs and was eventually 
destroyed by his championing of aid to Britain. (He insisted 
he had favored a loan to Britain, Canada, and Greece amount- 
ing to two billion dollars before lend-lease "was ever intro- 
duced or invented.") This in spite of repeated denials that 
American security was bound up in any way with that of 

186 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

England. The touchstone of Taft's foreign policy before 
World War II was his fond hope that the United States be 
left alone. 

Beginning in 1 944, Taf t became one of the most enthusiastic 
supporters of a new international organization. Moreover, he 
demanded that a "United Nations" be capable of solving dis- 
putes by judicial process. At the same time he favored the veto 
and challenged any diminution of sovereignty. If in this 
unhappy state of affairs disputes proved not to be susceptible 
of judicial solution, he preferred that we isolate ourselves 
from them. He appeared to assume that the cause of justice 
would be strengthened more by our doing nothing than by 
our doing the best we could in an unsatisfactory situation. 
These internal conflicts and inconsistencies reached a climax 
as Taft became the leader of the opposition. During Truman's 
administrations he was endlessly critical but rarely construc- 
tive. He was against the size of defense spending, whether 
eleven or forty billion dollars were involved. He opposed 
increase of European defense forces on grounds that the 
Soviet Union might be provoked, but favored a more decisive 
Far Eastern military campaign on grounds that there could 
be "no possible threat" to Russia "from anything we may do 
in China." John P. Armstrong sums up his excellent study 
of Taft by noting: "His [Taft's] ideas fit no recognizable 
pattern J there is neither a consistent body of ideas bearing 
directly on the problem of foreign policy nor a progression 
from one position to another."® 

Yet if Taft's ideas on foreign policy were inconsistent, it 
can be argued that what he had to say about the domestic 
consequences of foreign policy had a coherence, a consistency, 
and almost a rigidity in its application. Whereas for many of 
our historic Western writers and statesmen the "primacy of 

^ John p. Armstrong, "The Enigma of Senator Taft and American 
Foreign Policy," T/ie Remew of Politics, Vol. xvii, No. 2, April 1955, 
p. 221. 

187 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

foreign policy" over domestic policies and consequences was 
widely accepted, for Senator Taft the direct opposite was true. 
He took his stand for a strong legislature and a maximum of 
personal and economic freedom. He directed his wrath against 
big government, a strong executive, and high taxes. When he 
questioned lend-lease it was mainly in terms of the power it 
assigned the President. He opposed compulsory military 
service, not because world political conditions made it un- 
necessary but out of concern that it might destroy democratic 
government. He came to attack President Truman's decision 
in Korea, not because he questioned the soundness of such a 
policy but because in his mind it represented a usurpation of 
executive power. 

Mr. Armstrong concludes: "Senator Taft's ideal was the 
preservation of the late nineteenth century American political 
and economic system to which he attributed this country's 
greatness. He saw it almost as an absolute around which all 
else turned. Conscious, first of all, that any active foreign 
policy would seriously interfere with the attainment of this 
ideal, he approached every proposal in a hostile manner. 
Dumbfounded, as he contemplated the domestic consequences 
of each new policy, he was psychologically unprepared to 
inquire into either its soundness as a policy or the conditions 
with which it was supposed to deal. Merely for him to have 
acknowledged the existence of a serious threat to American 
security would have entailed compromising his stand against 
Big Executive government, for international crises have a way 
of tending to reduce the role of Congress to that of a ratifying 
body, and of serving to increase the powers of government."® 

If this can be said of a political leader with the extraor- 
dinary intellectual endowments and acumen of Senator Taft, 
it must be obvious that the theoretical foundations of isola- 
tionism are impoverished indeed. In a word, the problem of 
isolationism has been that, lacking roots in an enduring theory, 

^ Ibid., p. 229. 

188 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

it has taken root in ad hoc strategies and policies cast in the 
form of principles such as nonintervention and nonentangle- 
ment. Like plants artificially preserved long after they have 
withered and died, these policies as time has gone on have 
been confused with the theory in itself and come to claim 
the homage, devotion, and loyalty that broader precepts 
should command. The deposit of political truths that sur- 
rounded isolationism in an era when it formed a viable foreign 
policy was in consequence obscured and concealed from those 
who rushed in to supply a new theory. Perhaps partly because 
of the excesses and rigidities of isolationists, the proponents 
of collective security lost sight of the changeless truths under- 
lying this ancient creed and in so doing perpetrated a new 
philosophy rooted less in impulse than theory — but a theory 
distorted, exaggerated, and ultimately enfeebled by its own 
excessive rationalism and utopianism. When we have held 
this new theory up to the mirror of reality, we shall in con- 
clusion return to the lessons of isolationism seen in relation 
to the meaning of collective security. 

II. COLLECTIVE SECURITY AS IDEA AND REALITY 

From one standpoint it is a truism to say that collective 
security is something new under the sun. In past eras, espe- 
cially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, war was 
conceived of as a duel in which contestants should be isolated 
and restrained by the rest of international society. When 
nations engaged in armed conflict their neighbors sought to 
localize the struggles and alleviate war's poisonous effects. 
However shortsighted their actions in not meeting the con- 
flict directly and turning back aggression at its source, the 
nations pursuing these policies were sometimes successful for 
varying periods of time in preserving islands of peace in a 
warring world. 

On August 8, 1932, however, Secretary of State Henry L. 
Stimson proclaimed that the modern state system was entering 

189 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

a new era in which warring powers were no longer entitled 
to the same equally impartial and neutral treatment by the 
rest of society. He announced to the New York Council of 
Foreign Relations that in future conflicts one or more of the 
combatants must be designated as wrongdoer and added : "We 
no longer draw a circle about them and treat them with 
punctilios of the duelist's code. Instead we denounce them 
as lawbreakers.^" 

This is the cornerstone of the almost universally recognized 
theory of collective security to which most Western statesmen 
profess loyalty today. It is said that Stimson's memoirs, On 
Active Service J have become the bible of the Department of 
State, and in Britain we have the word of The Times (Lon- 
don) that collective security "indeed, is the view to which 
this country, like most others, is committed by its member- 
ship in the United Nations." 

It is important that we ask at the outset. What is collective 
security in theory? What are its precepts and main tenets? 
What, in simplest terms, is the philosophy of collective se- 
curity? The rock-bottom principle upon which collective 
security is founded provides that an attack on any one state 
will be regarded as an attack on all states. It finds its measure 
in the apparently simple doctrine of one for all and all for 
one. War anywhere, in the context of Article 1 1 of the League 
of Nations, is the concern of every state. 

Self-help and neutrality, it should be obvious, are the exact 
antithesis of such a theory. States under an order of neutrality 
are impartial when conflict breaks out, give their blessing to 
combatants to fight it out, and defer judgment regarding the 
justice or injustice of the cause involved. Self-help in the past 
was often "help yourself" so far as the great powers were 
concerned; they enforced their own rights, and more besides. 
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this system was 

^° Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace 
and War (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1947), p. 259, 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

fashionable and war, although not eliminated, was localized 
whenever possible. In a more integrated world, a conflict 
anywhere has some effect on conditions of peace everywhere. 
Disturbance at one point upsets equilibrium at other points, 
and the adjustment of a single conflict restores the foundations 
of harmony throughout the world. 

This idea of collective security is simple, challenging, and 
seemingly novel. It would do for the international society 
what police action does for the domestic community. If the 
individual is threatened or endangered in municipal society, 
he turns to the legitimate agents of law enforcement, the 
police. The comparatively successful operation of this system 
has meant relative peace and tolerable harmony for most 
local communities. Through the action of police or "fire 
brigades" on a world scale, collective security has as its goal 
two comparable objectives. It would prevent war by providing 
a deterrent to "aggression." It would defend the interests 
of "peace-loving" states in war if it came, by concentrating 
preponderance of power against the "aggressor." These two 
ends have been goals of both the League and the United 
Nations. 

This doctrine of collective security bears little resemblance 
to the march of events from 1919 to i960. The real issue 
concerning collective security from the beginning has had 
little to do with charters or precepts or institutions. Conse- 
quently, the past forty years have witnessed in rapid succes- 
sion two tragically destructive wars which the historian 
Arnold Toynbee compares to the double wars of the Romans 
and the Carthaginians and the two struggles of the Pelopon- 
nesian Wars which wrecked Hellenic civilization. Their cause 
must be sought less in the doctrines of the time than in the 
apparently irreconcilable clash between the foreign policies of 
certain major powers. 

Collective security in practice has been hampered by three 
persistent problems, all stemming from one fundamental 

191 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

source. In a word this source is the fatal divorce of the theory 
from poHtical reality. First, if peace is to be maintained, there 
must be some minimum consensus regarding the territorial 
arrangements that are to be preserved. The peace-enforce- 
ment agency must have a peace to defend. Following World 
War I, the new international organization was founded simul- 
taneously with the establishment of peace but, as had been 
true with the Holy Alliance, the nations most responsible for 
implementing the peace soon found that they gave it a 
different content. For France the status quo or peace required 
that Germany be kept in a state of continuing inferiority. 
French predominance on the continent was considered vital 
to the status quo. Britain by contrast was prepared for conces- 
sions to Germany aimed at creating a balance between France 
and Germany. When France hesitated in applying sanctions 
against Italy in the Ethiopian crisis, it did so because of the 
hope of maintaining Italy as a counter to increasing German 
strength. Following the Second World War, the relation 
between international government and the peace occupies an 
even more precarious state. The weight of thought on the 
timing of a peace conference had favored its postponement 
until passions cooled and more reasonable negotiations were 
possible. This was the lesson of Versailles, it was said, and 
on this Cordell Hull, members of the Commission to Study 
the Organization of Peace, and James F. Byrnes all spoke 
with one voice. We see now that this approach has been no 
more successful than the approach at Versailles and the ab- 
sence of a status quo imperils the United Nations no less 
than the divergence between France and England as to the 
meaning of interwar status quo weakened and helped to de- 
stroy the League of Nations. 

Second, the strength of international organization for the 
foreseeable future must rest upon the frail reed of a collection 
of separate national interests sometimes compatible but often- 
times conceived of as divergent with one another. Perhaps 

192 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

the most stubborn mistake in our thinking about international 
organization has been to assume that states through reason 
and persuasion could be made to see that their selfish national 
interests could always be served best by embracing something 
called the international interest. Leaders have appealed to the 
great powers to take "the long view," as Senator Arthur H. 
Vandenberg did when in a speech before the Senate on Janu- 
ary 10, 1945, he examined the Russian claim that it must have 
a circle of friendly states on its borders to give security against 
German aggression. He replied: "The alternative is collective 
security . . . which is better in the long view, from a purely 
selfish Russian standpoint: To forcefully surround herself 
with a cordon of unwillingly controlled or partitioned states, 
thus affronting the opinion of mankind ... or to win the 
priceless asset of world confidence in her by embracing the 
alternative, namely, full and wholehearted cooperation with 
and reliance upon a vital international organization." 

In all honesty the historian must add another leaf to 
Senator Vandenberg's handbook. He and other American 
statesmen, while raising this standard for others, have not 
infrequently both in word and deed appealed to another less 
lofty if more attainable political goal. Indeed few have been 
as transparently candid as Senator Vandenberg in expressing 
the hope that American spokesmanship at the peace table be 
at least as loyal to America's own primary interests as Mr. 
Stalin is certain to be in respect to Russia and Mr. Churchill 
to the British Empire. The Senator appeared to invoke a 
second rule of thumb when he warned that no one is going 
to look out for us unless we look out for ourselves. In fact, 
the view that American statesmen have been free from con- 
cern for immediate strategic interests is both mischievous 
and untrue. 

Some of the best Western thinkers were constrained to 
warn at the founding of the United Nations that the primacy 
of the individual nation-state and its interests was still a 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

reality. Thus J. L. Brierly cautioned: "In any case we must 
this time avoid the mistake which the Covenant made of 
assuming that every state's interest in the maintenance of 
international order was equal to that of every other, and also 
that every state's interest would be the same without regard 
to the region of the world in which order might be threatened 
or broken."^^ These moderate words were drowned out by 
the overwhelmingly predominant view that the brave new 
world in effect demanded of all men that national purposes 
be supplanted by world interests in which all equally have 
a stake. 

By hindsight, wiser and more informed observers would 
feel that Professor Brierly perceived more clearly the true 
nature of present-day international society than did many of 
his contemporaries. We note, for example, that Britain has 
been prepared to defend her international responsibilities in 
the Middle East more readily than other states because for 
England these resources have been a matter of life and death. 
In Korea, the U.S. saw further communist expansion as a 
threat to its long-run interests in Asia. Some years ago Paul 
Henri Spaak in an address before the Foreign Press Union 
declared: "There must be a hierarchy in international obliga- 
tions. The nations of the continent cannot be asked to consider 
with the same realism and sincerity of judgment affairs which 
directly concern them and events which are taking place 
thousands of kilometres away in regions where they have 
neither interests nor influence. Indivisible peace, mutual assist- 
ance, and even collective security are general ideas whose prac- 
tical effect must be clearly explained and clearly limited."^^ 

Despite these facts which in 1 945-1 946 were disparaged as 
fictions, there is truth in the maxim that peace tends to be 
indivisible, especially in an atomic age. War feeds on itself 

^^ J. L. Brierly, The Outlook for International Law (Oxford: The 
Clarendon Press, 1944), p. 87. 

^^ Quoted in Survey of lyiternational Affairs^ 1936, pp. 354-55- 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

and like a contagious disease will spread unless it can some- 
how be quarantined. In this sense all states have an interest 
in checking even small wars before they fester into big ones. 
Collective security when conceived of as the successor to 
peaceful settlement when conciliators have failed in their task 
can be a way of meeting this problem. However, those who are 
preoccupied with sanctions and enforcement may sometimes 
be unaware that what is most needed is a poultice to draw the 
infectious poison from a conflict, not a sword drawn in punitive 
action. The friends and extreme spokesmen of collective 
security sometimes display a lamentable tendency to wait 
until a breach of the peace occurs and then pounce vengefully 
on the offender as if he were no more than a wicked child. 
Sometimes minor wars may lead to all-out conflict, but again 
they can through reasonable precautions be localized. Unhap- 
pily for the dogmatists there can be no "one" remedy. 
Sometimes intervention may be called for 5 again "hands off" 
may be needed. The chief trouble with the theory of collective 
security is that in seeking a generalized and normative pattern, 
it assumes too cavalierly that nations with needs and interests 
will act as policemen whether or not they see their own 
interests threatened. If we demand that nations act wholly in 
a disinterested and international way, in effect we ask them 
to cease to be nations. 

Third, international government can give reality to col- 
lective security only when authority within the organization 
is commensurate with that outside. It is tempting to view 
international institutions in such formal terms that the dy- 
namic role of the foreign policy of member and nonmember 
states is obscured. An approach which recognizes the politics 
of international organization is confronted at almost every 
point with the need to relate decisions within the peace struc- 
ture to those in the outside world. The League foundered 
and failed less because of an imperfect constitutional system 
than because the centers of power in world politics never 

195 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

corresponded with the locus o£ authority at Geneva. Earlier 
in the nineteenth century, the Holy Alliance failed because 
the Concert of Europe lost contact with an objective political 
situation created by states whose interests were at odds with 
the aristocratic regimes of Europe united under an ideology 
of legitimacy. At present it is difficult to see how a United 
Nations can preserve the peace if leading centers of power 
are excluded from its decision-making agencies. To some 
extent the shift in power from the Security Council to the 
General Assembly reflects the emergence of countries like 
India whose voice must be reckoned with despite absence from 
the Council. But as Germany and China take an increasing 
part in world politics, an age-old problem which confounded 
the two earlier experiments in organized international action 
will doubtless become more and more troublesome. Beyond 
this, the United Nations has the curious effect from time to 
time of inverting these relationships by putting into the hands 
of a small group of states with comparatively modest power 
and responsibility in the world the fate of important nations. 
The Arab-Asian bloc presently holds the balance of power in 
the United Nations and can determine the content of resolu- 
tions that sometimes strike at the heart of the vital interests 
of other powers while safeguarding India's vital interests in 
Kashmir and Egypt's control over Suez, It remains to be 
seen how long this situation can continue before it evokes a 
reaction, particularly when one great power plays one game 
when its vital interests are at stake while the West accepts 
other rules of the game. Moreover, it is interesting to specu- 
late whether the United States can be as magnanimous with 
its own vital interests as it has recently been with those of 
others. 

Conclusions 

Looking back over the past forty years, we can say that 
isolationism and collective security as major trends in Amer- 

196 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

ica's foreign relations have shared certain qualities in common. 
Neither has been in itself a cure nor substitute for war. Neither 
proved adequate to forestall the great calamities from which 
we have suffered. Neither had any absolute value and each 
has influenced the shape of the other in American practice. To 
this we may add that one or both appear to have suffered 
from a high rate of obsolescence. Take as an illustration the 
validity today of two cardinal assumptions that underlay 
collective security. First, it was assumed that the anticipated 
hostile act with which the world would be confronted would 
be an overt military one, clearly identifiable as aggressive. 
Aside from the problem of defining aggression, for which no 
international body has discovered a satisfactory formula, it 
becomes ever clearer that the military threat is not necessarily 
the gravest issue confronting the world today. Instead, perils 
creep in upon us in manifold ways, including that of "con- 
cealed aggression," through which forces that are ostensibly 
domestic in nature seize power, as in China. With the revolt 
of peoples in underdeveloped countries and the rapid pace of 
demands for social change, the military problems of our day 
have to a considerable degree been superseded by economic 
and political threats. 

A second basic assumption of collective security provides 
that "the combined military strength of the members and 
their effective coordination will be adequate to deter or meet 
aggression." In practice the organization of preponderant 
military power is difficult if not impossible to come by. More- 
over, the importance of a mere collection of allies in a grand 
coalition is relative to a host of other factors. These include 
the level of armed strength of the members, the extent of 
their military coordination, the degree of unity between them 
and prospects for their resolution and political morale in time 
of stress. The number of countries arrayed against an aggressor 
is not a negligible factor. But with respect to deterrence it is 
hardly an absolute. There hangs over a coalition a law of 

197 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

diminishing returns. It appears to be true that the wider a 
coalition, the more difficult become the problems of harness- 
ing armed action to a single strategy, preserving secrecy and 
suddenness of decision, taking advantage of bluff and surprise 
and rapid maneuver, and showing restraint. Proponents of 
collective security, in arguing that an aggressor aware of the 
number of powers arrayed against him would swallow his 
evil designs, have overlooked the inherent weaknesses that 
go hand in hand with the strengths of any massive coalition. 
Indeed, it is entirely possible when all is said and done that 
the military and political posture of a single leading power 
in such a coalition, rather than its scope or magnitude, may 
prove the principal deterrent. Furthermore, as conflicts pro- 
liferate on a wide geographic front, the interests of states 
whose destinies are intimately bound up with the welfare of 
the region involved may be more decisive than the vague 
and essentially negative obligations undertaken by states in 
global security arrangements. As Asia, Africa, and the Middle 
East enter world politics more actively as subjects — rather 
than as objects, it may be a fair question to ask whether con- 
cern with regional centers of power buttressed by friendly 
states outside the area is not more important than the search 
for universal collective systems. If so, collective systems like 
SEATO and CENTO may be open to the gravest question. 
This assumption of collective security presumes an inte- 
grated world community in which aggression, right and 
wrong, and law and violence can be simply and unambiguously 
determined. Yet, in the international realm as it is, nations 
rarely if ever contend over what the law is. Historically they 
have gone to war over what the law ought to be or how 
certain legal and political arrangements should be interpreted. 
If this has been the case in the comparatively homogeneous 
world which revolved around Europe as its center, is it not 
infinitely more true when international society is in a constant 
state of change and flux with some peoples emerging from a 

198 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

colonial status, others sinking back into a state of virtual 
dependence, and with new forms of nationalism being con- 
tinuously and boisterously asserted. In this kind of world an 
absolute and inflexible defense of collective security would 
be as unreal as the earlier appeals for the outlawry of war. 
Both are heard as anguished cries of protest against the in- 
tolerable existence of the world. Naively construed, collective 
security becomes a futile attempt to freeze a status quo that 
refuses to be frozen, as well as an obstacle to the processes 
of peaceful change. 

Isolationism has in turn its peculiar perils. Its apparent stress 
on the primacy of the national interest and the right of a state 
in a troubled world to retain control over its own destiny is 
for the foreseeable future a valid and neglected truth. Yet 
the national interest for isolationists is identified traditionally 
with the emotions and impulses of particular ethnic groups 
or of chosen economic or intellectual elites within the nation. 
Seldom has the American isolationist proceeded from an 
objective appraisal of our vital interests, the distribution of 
power in the world, or the threats to American security. This 
may be true again today in the various inter-service disputes 
involving Admiral Arthur W. Radford and some of his 
successors. Someone responsible for foreign policy, looking 
dispassionately at the continuation of conflict in the world, 
might conclude that wars in some form are inevitable. He 
might decide, however, that an exception could be atomic 
or hydrogen conflicts. Preparing in part for the worst through 
some emphasis on new weapons, he might at the same time 
insist that conventional military forces should be kept in a 
state of readiness to meet limited conflicts. In truth, both 
prudence and recent history in Korea and Indo-China lend 
support to this approach. We may ask then whether the type 
of neutrality which insists that American military prepara- 
tions should be designed exclusively for the absolute struggle 
is not in a sense a latter-day version of isolationism. Is the 

199 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

one-shot approach to global conflict a case of having every- 
thing rather than nothing to do with the world and having 
done with it as quickly as possible? Can we define neo-isola- 
tionism as isolationism turned inside out? Is it a matter of 
isolating the making of decisions in foreign policy from the 
endless pressures and contacts of other sovereign states, rather 
than insulating the Western Hemisphere as in the past? Is it 
having everything rather than nothing to do with the world — 
but on one's own terms? 

In the final analysis perhaps isolationism and collective 
security threaten to mislead us because of their dismissal of 
politics with its uncertainties, its limited actions, and its 
tactics of advance and retreat. The one boasts a heritage, kept 
alive by the passion of ethnic minorities striving valiantly to 
prove their Americanism, which identifies politics, compro- 
mise, and adjustment in diplomacy and alliances with the 
decadence and corruption of Europe. Despite the rich intel- 
lectual resources devoted to its defense, isolationism has failed 
to supply a lasting and viable theory of international relations. 
It has sacrificed its command of certain residual truths by 
clinging to the form rather than the substance of freedom of 
action within limits. Command of one's fortunes in a nation 
as in a family can never be absolute. It requires a recognition 
of certain mutualities of interests without sacrificing what is 
essential. Isolation gives us no theory of international politics 
because in fact it has been indifferent to international politics 
with its uncertain terrain, its dilemmas and tragic compromises, 
its ambiguities, half-truths, and shades of grey, and its inevita- 
ble stress on abhorrent terms like power and national interest. 

But for different reasons, collective security has failed us, 
has left us with problems it could never solve, and has pre- 
served and increased the gap already existing between theory 
and practice. It has approached foreign policy dogmatically 
and legalistically rather than pragmatically. While isola- 
tion provides no theory, collective security gives us a 

200 



ISOLATIONISM AND COLLECTIVE SECURITY 

philosophy so abstract and idealized as to provide little guid- 
ance in practice. To make collective security effective even in 
the most modest way, the policy-maker in any instance would 
have to ask a series of questions: Is overt military aggression 
the main thing to be feared? Are the methods prescribed to 
counter it ones likely to be disruptive to the power of resistance 
to other forms of aggression? Is it possible to define acts of 
aggression in a manner agreed to by all the members of the 
coalition? Is the status quo to be preserved by collective se- 
curity capable of and worth preserving, or is it likely to come 
apart at the seams despite all efforts? 

When such questions are answered in each emerging case 
the value of collective security can be gauged. Clearly the 
moral is that collective security as a means of achieving world 
peace is no more an absolute than arbitration or disarmament 
or the outlawry of war. Its positive value may sometimes be 
very great, but this will depend on a whole series of specific 
variables which cannot be brought under the control of any 
fixed theoretical concept. It is unhappily the case that however 
persistently men may seek for some blanket code of procedural 
rules, compliance with a code would automatically do away 
with such realities as the immense variety of the human 
family, the inescapable conflicts of its members as they seek 
influence and power, and the fact that human behavior is only 
partially calculable by man himself, by reason of the fact that 
he lacks both the means and the moral courage fully to 
understand himself. 

If collective security is insufficient as a theory of interna- 
tional relations, it may nonetheless have its place if applied 
judiciously and with immense reserve and self-restraint. It 
can be a means of organizing and making legitimate the net- 
work of mutual interests of a "free-world" coalition, especially 
if the task of preserving the tenuous ties among them is taken 
seriously. This calls for the best arts of statecraft and 
diplomacy, arts which antedate collective security by centuries. 

201 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

Perhaps the supreme paradox of American foreign policy 
today is the necessity placed upon us to seize and employ 
the essentially Utopian instruments of collective security in a 
brutally realistic power struggle. Its agencies furnish a politi- 
cal framework through which the broad coalition of the free 
world can be strengthened and a more stable equilibrium of 
world power be restored. 

For every concrete policy the value of policies for the 
consolidation of the "free world" must be measured coolly 
and dispassionately against the effects on our ties with the 
neutral and uncommitted nations. In certain cases they may 
yearn more for economic aid or political recognition than 
mutual guarantees. Thus an empirical and pragmatic approach 
as against a legalistic and punitive view of collective security 
finds uses more modest and limited than the ardent advocate 
assumes. ^^ It is but one variable among many. It aims at the 
institutionalizing of force but perhaps must settle for the 
facilitating of a more stable balance of power. Today's realities 
are such that it should be played in a minor key as against 
economic growth, peaceful change, and the harmonizing of 
differences. Tomorrow's facts could call for new estimates 
and insights. Until then, perhaps we should safeguard and 
preserve the recurring truths we find at the heart of isola- 
tionism and collective security, however inadequate, until we 
have a more inclusive and recognized body of theory for 
American foreign policy. 

^^ A few writers early warned against the legalistic approach, among 
them Alfred T, Mahan in Armaments and Arbitration (New York: Harper 
& Brothers, 19 12), p. 99, who said: "Law lacks elasticity, not merely 
because it itself, at least in international relations, may be correct as a 
general proposition, yet cannot always be applied satisfactorily to a par- 
ticular case. In some instances a different instrument is required. A political 
impasse must be met by a special provision, by measures which shall proceed 
on a basis not of strict legality, but of evident necessary expediency; in 
short, by diplomacy rather than by law." 



202 



CHAPTER 6 

THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 



While there is batde and hatred men have eyes for 
nothing save the fact that the enemy is the cause of all 
the troubles; but long, long afterwards, when all pas- 
sion has been spent, the historian often sees that it was a 
conflict between one half-right that was perhaps too 
wilful, and another half-right that was perhaps too 
proud; and behind even this he discerns that it was a 
terrible predicament apparently beyond the wit of man 
to resolve. — Herbert butterfield 



Fifty years from now Americans looking back upon our 
foreign relations will judge us as we judge our forebears. It 
may not be completely idle to speculate for a moment on the 
possible character of their judgment. Will they say that we 
lived in an age of greatness that flourished as America slowly, 
hesitatingly, but unflinchingly, assumed a position of world 
leadership? Will they say that as we grew stronger, our 
wisdom, responsibility, and justice deepened} or will it be 
true of us as of the great powers of the past, whether the 
Roman Empire, Greek Republic, or French State, that we 
were corrupted by power, enfeebled by perplexities, internal 
dissension, and uncertainty, and destroyed by our loss of the 
capacity to act within the limits of our power? What will they 
say about the intellectual climate, about the spirit in which we 
approached our problems, about the philosophy of foreign 
relations of the people and their intellectual and political 
leaders? How will they judge the courage of those in authority 
and the responsiveness of the great mass of goodhearted but 
half -informed ordinary men and women? What will they 

203 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

think of our devotion to moral principles or our qualities in 
that realm the ancients called practical wisdom? Will it be 
the judgment of history that our fateful position as an island 
of plenty and prosperity in a global sea of poverty and inse- 
curity tempted us after numerous encounters with our hapless 
but ungrateful friends to withdraw to the safe haven of the 
American continent? Is it possible that the baffling pace and 
bewildering complexity of world problems will exceed the 
capacities of human resources for coping with them, keeping 
them in check, or solving them in at least a provisional way? 
Or, will human resourcefulness and ingenuity find new ways 
of encompassing our difficulties? Can we discover the moral 
resources for acting when we cannot foresee the consequences 
of our actions, for choosing between practical alternatives 
weighed down with ambiguities and imperfections, and for 
guiding the people to accept the things they might do if they 
had the grasp and knowledge that their leaders possess? I am 
emboldened to think that these are the crucial issues and the 
standards by which we shall be judged, not our professions of 
high principle, ringing affirmations of devotion to institutions 
like the United Nations, or the flaunting of appeals to the 
moral conscience of mankind. I am impressed that in facing 
the future we confront some baffling and almost impossible 
choices among alternatives that are far from clearly and 
logically most desirable. Moreover, we must reach our de- 
cisions in realms where we have had the least success in 
the past. 

I. THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN MIND 

It would be reassuring to say that America in its time of 
challenge from the brutalities, complexities, and uncertainties 
of the external world had put its own house in order and 
organized its thoughts and ideas. A democracy for more than 
a century and a half with successes that outdistance the fondest 
hopes of the Founding Fathers, we are endlessly tempted to 

204 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

maintain that our free institutions are secure, our rights safe- 
guarded, and our conception of domestic and international 
politics clear and sure. Our accomplishments in every realm 
pay tribute to American inventiveness j we are a positive 
people with faith in the future and in man as the measure 
of things, including the God who is seen in the image of man. 
As a successful people we easily grow impatient with the 
failings on one hand of nations whose greatest achievements 
are presumed to lie in the past or, on the other, of newly 
emerging states who are painfully groping toward a better 
life. From the throne of the world, we look to Europe and 
Asia not as equals but as peoples to be understood, however 
compassionately, each in their own less fortunate terms. We 
approach our problems not with the fresh curiosity and won- 
der of the young child but, ironically at the dawning of our 
leadership, with the fixed doctrines of the self-made, older 
man. We speak to Europeans in the condescending tone of 
greater morality. We see Europe as a civilization whose past 
greatness is beclouded by imperialism, colonialism, and power 
politics, sins from which we assume we are free. Europe is 
like the aging father who has had his chance while we as the 
aspiring and buoyant youth seek with our virtues to crowd 
out all his ancient and unhappy failings. In much the same 
spirit, the misery, poverty, and exploitation of underdeveloped 
regions are expected to yield to the command of our material 
resources, for we view the world's economic problems in the 
light of the relative equality that has been attained in Ameri- 
can economic life. Their economic and political development 
sometimes appears to be more our goal than the will of the 
local peoples. 

This brief commentary of course exaggerates the American 
outlook and singles out certain tendencies that are less than 
the whole of American thinking. I have deliberately over- 
stated, and not for a moment would I leave an impression 
that this viewpoint is dominant for all. Notably since World 

205 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

War II, American foreign policy has cut loose from the 
moorings of "splendid isolation" and consciously embraced 
the firm ties of partnership with peoples in Europe and Asia. 
We have bilateral security arrangements with more than forty 
nations and our loyalty to the United Nations is beyond 
dispute. We point to the Marshall Plan as an act of almost 
unparalleled generosity. Yet the tendency of seeing ourselves 
as morally and spiritually, if not geographically, apart from 
the other nations of the world is always present, though 
hidden beneath the surface, ready to erupt or appear. It affects 
our approach to problems like colonialism, diplomacy or the 
use of force, and influences the trend toward a too sanguine 
point of view about prospects of charting the future. The 
brutalities, complexities, and uncertainties of foreign relations 
escape us because of the state of the American mind, and we 
falter particularly in the realm of means, where discriminate 
judgments, not higher instincts, are at stake. 

Not the least of our problems arise from the facts of power 
and force. For more than a century, America has proved itself 
singularly inept in coming to terms with force. Beginning as 
early as 1840, there were organized expressions of public 
feeling proclaiming a deep-seated suspicion of an approach 
to our problems by diplomacy or force. The "banning the 
bomb" approach did not await the ultimate weapon. The 
"peace movement had as its goal the elimination of force 
through procedures like arbitration or some other form of 
moral suasion. Because arbitration was the most plausible of 
various peace movements, we may pause to examine it, how- 
ever briefly. Significantly, it was the first of the movements to 
receive governmental sanction. It had served nations well at 
the turn of the century on issues that had not proved amenable 
to traditional diplomacy. Settlements like the Alabama Claims 
case and Bering Sea fisheries dispute were fresh in the public 
mind, and it was not surprising that the question should be 
asked why, if settlements like these had been possible, should 

206 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

the same principle not be applied to all outstanding differ- 
ences. It was forgotten that states customarily reserve to 
themselves decisions on matters where vital interests are at 
stake. The United States itself had refused arbitration on the 
issue of the sinking of the Maine^ which touched off the 
Spanish-American War, and no thoughtful person could have 
imagined the United States Senate agreeing in advance to 
bind itself to arbitrate problems involving the Monroe Doc- 
trine or our strategic interests in Panama or the Caribbean. 
However, at the turn of the century at both Hague Confer- 
ences the United States delegation pressed for a universal 
arbitral system. The most important result of the jEirst Hague 
Conference was the creation of the Permanent Court of 
Arbitration, which through its selection of panels of judges 
to serve in individual disputes promised to serve a useful 
purpose. However, after 1932, in only two cases did the states 
draw on the resources of the Permanent Court. It came to be 
supplanted by the Permanent Court of International Justice 
or the International Court of Justice, which were primarily 
successful in cases of a relatively noninflammable nature. 
Other arbitration treaties were negotiated 5 for example, no 
less than eleven were signed between November 1904 and 
February 1905. However, in the Senate they were hedged 
about with restrictions, and Theodore Roosevelt was prompted 
to say: "Of course it is mere nonsense to have a treaty which 
does nothing but say that there is no power of enforcing, 
that whenever we choose, there shall be another arbitration 
treaty."^ Because of these objections the agreements remained 
in limbo, without senatorial action having been taken. Despite 
the vigorous efforts of men like Elihu Root and President 
Taft, they were either not ratified or if ratified they remained 
essentially dead letters. The most elaborate and extensive 
arrangements were the so-called Bryan Conciliation Treaties 
negotiated with thirty countries, of which twenty-one were 

^George F. Kennan, unpublished "Notes for Essays," 1951-52, p. 67. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

ratified, providing for conciliation commissions to investigate 
disputes not susceptible of settlement by diplomatic means 
and defining a cooling-off period during which the investiga- 
tion would be carried on. The commissions were envisaged 
as permanent bilateral bodies to which the respective govern- 
ments would appoint officials. 

For the historian the most striking feature of these treaties 
was that over a period of forty years not a single one was 
invoked or used in any way. In the period between the wars, 
an immense body of contractual obligations was evolved in 
which statesmen assured one another of their resolve not to 
use force or break the peace. From 1899 to 1933 a total of 
97 international agreements for arbitration and conciliation 
had been negotiated and ratified. It is impossible to appraise 
or conceive in any satisfactory way the amount of energy 
and talent that went into this enterprise. Yet, aside from cer- 
tain private disputes that scarcely had international signifi- 
cance, only two outstanding international problems were 
arbitrated and ironically no general arbitration treaty was 
necessary in either of these cases. One was the North Atlantic 
Fisheries dispute between the United States and Great Britain 
involving interpretation of the provisions of a ninety-year-old 
treaty. The other concerned the question of sovereignty over 
the island of Palmas and arose from a dispute between the 
United States and the Netherlands. These two cases comprise 
the entire return on the prodigious efforts of American leaders 
and in particular Secretaries of State Bryan, Kellogg, and 
Stimson. 

It should also be noted that events which threatened to 
shatter the fabric of international society were taking place 
simultaneously with the efforts at legislating arbitration. At 
the time of the first Hague Conference, Russia was extending 
its influence into Manchuria 5 the final stage of the battle of 
the Marne coincided with the signing of four conciliation 
treaties in Washington} and the attempts by Kellogg and 

208 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

Stimson took place as Hitler's star was rising in Germany, 
the First Five- Year Plan was unfolding in Russia, and the 
Japanese were pushing into Manchuria. It would be difficult 
to show that these events were affected even in the slightest 
by this approach to the problem of force. More dramatic 
were the efforts at disarmament and, climactically, at the 
outlawry of war, but the fanfare and moral enthusiasm sur- 
rounding them were in no sense commensurate with their 
usefulness as restraints on power. 

Today, in the aftermath of World War II, force once again 
has confounded the policy-makers. The early postwar treaties 
were conceived of as means by which wartime partnership 
could be extended into the peace. Yet the disparity between 
Western power and the force in being of the Soviet Union, 
especially in its distribution in Europe, played havoc with 
attempts at erecting a viable peace. The only crime of Yalta 
was the failure to recognize soon enough the intimate connec- 
tion between power and peace — a failure for which we all are 
at least partly responsible. If this failing were not deeply 
embedded in our contemporary national character, we might 
have been less willing to see the basis destroyed for a settle- 
ment of the Suez crisis, where we subsequently had to carry 
on negotiations with Colonel Nasser more from weakness to 
a degree which since then has steadily increased. 

The problems of power have obviously been magnified by 
the sharp rise in the magnitude of force. Nearly four decades 
ago the Right Honorable Herbert Asquith observed that 
science was beginning to "lisp the alphabet of annihilation." 
Today the dangers are daily borne in upon us not only of 
mutual devastation in war but also of radioactive poison in 
peace. In the hydrogen era our approach to the problem of 
force has been curiously reminiscent of earlier days. The 
number of words and proposals devoted to a generalized 
attack on the disarmament problem perhaps exceeds attention 
to any comparable problem. Whereas before World War II 

209 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the approach was one of erecting a system of fixed legal and 
arbitral procedures culminating in broad over-all legislation 
outlawing war (the Kellogg-Briand Pact), the postwar design 
has called for almost endless exchanges with Soviet delegates 
within the United Nations and outside, all looking toward the 
banning of the use of force or at least limitation of certain 
of its forms. The call for cessation of tests is a more recent 
variation on this common theme. 

The dread disease that has tended to paralyze American 
thinking on the problem of force has its roots in at least three 
conditions of the American mind. We have assumed that force 
could be dealt with in the isolated compartments of disarma- 
ment conventions or arbitral treaties divorced from the harsh 
realities of power in the outside world or from viable strategic 
doctrines evolved to meet mutual interests and needs. We 
have favored a legal over a diplomatic approach. We have 
preferred to think in absolute rather than discriminate terms 
and to see force as a single-edged weapon that might be 
drawn only in a violent cause, forgetting its second edge, 
which could be used to deter aggression. In consequence, 
perhaps there is no area of international life where success 
has been more fleeting and where the best efforts of men 
supremely endowed have been greeted with more modest 
achievements. Only the strong currents of the prevailing 
American approach to world problems and the yearning for 
over-all formulas have kept afloat this mode of dealing 
with force. 

II. ROOTS OF THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 
You will have gathered from my comments that I fear 
even more the unsettling effects of our way of viewing inter- 
national problems than their substance and perplexing if not 
insoluble nature. For one thing there is little we can do to 
change the outside world and the existence and recurrence 
of trouble. It promises to be with us always in much the way 

210 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

that irritations and frustrations are a part of our personal life. 
Most of us learn to take the good with the bad in daily life 
but are distressed when we find that international society is 
brimming over with ambition, greed, injustice, and selfish 
interests. Not many of our personal problems can be solved 
unequivocally and most of us walk the thin knife's edge that 
separates certainty from uncertainty, security from insecurity, 
and hope from despair. The fabric of international life is at 
least as variegated and perhaps more resistant to tidy answers 
and neat resolution. Moreover, sweeping and decisive solu- 
tions to problems on the world scene are almost always a 
subtle blending of some broad plan of action and particular 
interests, passions, and enthusiasms. They are propositions 
that doubtless would be valid if the world were cast in our 
image and if others were as fair-minded, progressive, satisfied, 
and law-abiding as we are enabled to be. But there are still 
massive differences in wealth, power, and national values and 
our standards are not those which others automatically em- 
brace. This lends an air of pretentiousness to our claims that 
states should abide by the precepts that profit us more than 
them. 

I see the roots of the American dilemma especially in four 
corners~or out narionar°and^ International life. Xhey_Jnxolve 
the politics, col onJaT viewpoint, morality, and jdemocratic 
dTpTomacy of the United States. The first dilemma arises from 
the problems inherent in marshalling domestic support for 
our programs while at the same time putting our best foot 
forward in the eyes of the rest of the world. In rallying a 
consensus in support of policies, we say things to ourselves 
that from the standpoint of other peoples might better be 
left unsaid. In this the United States is of course not unique, 
and we do well in reflecting on this fact to curb our impatience 
with other world leaders. Nehru, for instance, prides himself 
on the fact that above all he is a national leader j his assertions 
on international problems ought never to be divorced from the 

211 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

Indian political context, where a free society restricted in the 
resources it can turn to its foreign affairs struggles to maintain 
itself in an essentially hostile region of the world. The Ameri- 
can experience is, however, made especially poignant because 
we are a vast sprawling continent of great diversity of political 
and religious belief, with a constitutional system in which 
power and responsibility are broadly diffused, although less 
in foreign affairs than for the conduct of national government. 
Thus we speak in many voices, some raucous and strident, as 
we seek to persuade one another of the right course to follow. 
Moreover, the language of domestic politics is not the lan- 
guage of political theory. It means to unite as many as will 
join to support policies or programs. It looks to a common 
denominator that can more often be found in moral gener- 
alities or in broad principles than in specific directives of 
strategy that, like military policies, must be cast as practical 
alternatives that circumstances may effect. It prefers militant 
slogans to qualified truths and a crusade to public conversa- 
tions on problems. 

It is a permanent part of the landscape of international 
relations that American foreign policy must draw its support 
from a union of the viewpoints and interests of the experts, 
the public, and our friends and allies. No American statesman 
can ignore one point on the triangle without courting disaster, 
nor can he unduly stress one, however vital, at the expense of 
the others. Following World War II and until 1950, Ameri- 
can policy was acceptable to the authoritative views of experts, 
to the national mood, and to the intellectual foundations of 
coalition diplomacy. This day has passed, and since then the 
demands of these groups have tended increasingly to go their 
separate ways. One writer in 1956 went as far as to say: 
"Today when the nation's foreign relations are vulnerable to 
the criticism of experts at home and abroad, they enjoy such 
broad endorsement and acceptance at all levels of American 

212 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

life that they have become almost untouchable."- We know 
that the predicament of any administration in the conduct of 
American foreign policy is that in shaping wise programs of 
action it cannot afford to lose touch with people or with their 
chosen representatives. This was the tragedy of President 
Woodrow Wilson that President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
vowed not to repeat. He chose to work especially on prepara- 
tion for the United Nations through a Secretary of State who 
was a graduate of the Congress and through bipartisan dele- 
gations who accompanied him to major international confer- 
ences. In much the same spirit, Secretary of State John Foster 
Dulles is said to have observed that his predecessor Dean 
Acheson had succeeded in all but one important respect and 
that had proved his undoing: he had failed to protect his 
flanks in the Congress. For a time, Mr. Dulles appeared to 
have profited by Mr. Acheson's mistake. He had neutralized 
the Right wing of his party partly by isolating some of its 
members from the rest of their colleagues and partly by 
joining those who might otherwise have opposed him. He 
pursued a policy of advance and retreat which from the stand- 
point of domestic politics was provisionally sound but as it 
was accentuated confounded our friends abroad and alienated 
the internationalists in the Democratic Party. Hence, without 
fixing praise or blame, we can say that the present administra- 
tion, by stressing one side of the triangle involving its most 
sensitive domestic relations, has aggravated its foreign rela- 
tions, some would say almost beyond repair. 

No purpose would be served by minimizing the incredible 
complexity and difficulty of relating the national interest to 
the demands of national politics and reconciling them both 
with the legitimate aspirations of our allies and friends. We 
are bound to suffer and cause offense even with those states 

^ Norman A. Graebner, T/ie New Isolationism: A Study in Politics and 
Foreign Policy since 1950 (New York: The Ronald Press Co., 1956), 
p. 239. 

213 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

to whom we are bound most closely by geography, history, 
and common traditions. An editorial in The Economist (Lon- 
don) on November 17, 1956 observed: "Between us and the 
Americans it is, in a sense, a tale of two inferiority complexes: 
ours because we harp upon prestige, without recognizing that 
prestige can only be earned by our success in managing our 
affairs and in gaining the respect of others and cannot be 
bolstered by words and gestures j theirs because by ill-timed 
criticism and an indifference to their allies' interests they still 
work off the last traces of their long-gone colonial (and 
isolationist) status." These fears and anxieties of course beset 
other policy-makers as well as our own. If there is any way 
out of this dilemma, it is probably through the voice of a 
strong and wise President, responsive to the broad mandate 
given him by the people but courageous in his choice of the 
means of serving the national interest. In foreign policy, of 
all fields, the President must lead, for only he sees the broad 
picture and has available the detailed map that a continuous 
intelligence process fills in. He must act as the wisest and most 
reasonable citizen would act if he had all the facts at his com- 
mand. He must first determine the requirements of the 
national interest and then interpret them to gain public 
consent. It would be folly to leave this to the people, even 
though conceivably on some issues they might be wiser than 
their leaders. Some of our European friends have been tactless 
enough to suggest that this leadership has frequently been 
lacking of late. The pro-American London Economist declared 
on November 17, 1956 (p. 596) : "Mr. Eisenhower suggested 
that, once the immediate causes of friction had been disposed 
of, then the U.S. would be ready with constructive proposals 
for the future. But to many observers what matters now is the 
present 5 they may be forgiven for feeling once again that 
the President is failing to exercise the responsibilities of his 
ofiice." 

The events in Indo-China in March and April 1954 called 

214 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

into play the interests of three parties : the experts, the public, 
and friends and allies. As the fortress of Dienbienphu was 
besieged. General Paul Ely, French Chief of Staff, called for 
allied intervention in behalf of our ally. The administration 
first maintained that the fall of Indo-China would be like 
tipping over the first in a row of dominoes, a theory reminis- 
cent of the justification of our Korean policy in 1950. If one 
vital area in Southeast Asia succumbed to the communists, 
others would be likely to follow as the wildfire of communist 
successes engulfed the whole area. Secretary of State Dulles, 
in his address to the Overseas Writers in New York on March 
29, 1954, called for the internationalization of the Indo- 
Chinese war. He warned that the "imposition on Southeast 
Asia of the political system of Communist Russia and its 
Chinese Communist ally, by whatever means, would be a 
grave threat to the whole free community. The United States 
feels that the possibility should not be passively accepted, but 
should be met by united action. This might involve serious 
risks. But these risks are far less than those that will face us a 
few years from now, if we dare not be resolute today." Vice 
President Nixon told newsmen in Washington that the loss 
of Dienbienphu would be catastrophic. Senator Knowland 
expressed the view that the free world had reached "the jump- 
ing off place" where it stood in danger of losing all Southeast 
Asia. President Eisenhower himself put forth the theory of 
the dominoes. During April, however, this hard view began 
to respond to pressures from domestic quarters and from one 
of our allies. On April 7, 1954, the President was quoted as 
saying at a press conference "we simply cannot afford to lose 
Indo-China." In the strongest statement of all, Mr. Nixon 
on April 16 advised the American Society of Newspaper 
Editors: "If, to avoid further Communist expansion in Asia 
and Indo-China we must take the risk now by putting our 
boys in, I think the Executive has to take the politically 
unpopular decision and do it." This speech was a bombshell 

215 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

and political reactions no less violent. Four days later the 
Secretary said it seemed unlikely that American troops would 
be used in Indo-China, and on April 28 he promised that 
American troops would not be sent to Indo-China or elsewhere 
if the administration could help it. What were the reasons 
for the shift in policy? It must have had something to do with 
the British reluctance to join in the united action of an air 
strike to relieve embattled Dienbienphu. Furthermore, it 
doubtless bore some relation to the sharp reaction to Nixon's 
speech of April 16, especially by Republican editors. In any 
event, despite strong feeling within the administration, the 
counter-pressures of public opinion and the reactions of our 
allies carried policy-makers away from intervention. For pres- 
ent purposes this episode in American foreign policy is crucial 
not for its wisdom or its folly but because it illustrates the 
peculiar pressures of making foreign policy by triangulation. 

The second American dilemma stems from the colonial 
problem which reaches beyond America's national life and 
touches conflicting interests at work throughout the world. 
Since the Second World War, the colonial issue appears at 
the top of every agenda for discussion of American foreign 
policy. Responsible officials are encouraged to make proclama- 
tions and to throw America's weight behind popular revo- 
lutions. In this setting it is tempting to take general and 
sweeping positions and to express an American doctrine on 
the rights of peoples everywhere to independence and self- 
government. This is particularly true because Americans' own 
experience is so rich in lessons and apparently pregnant with 
meaning. The fruits of attempts thus far to propound a dogma 
should serve, however, to give us pause, for the record of 
America's efforts to align itself squarely with either colonial 
or anticolonial powers is sprinkled with as many failures as 
successes. 

Nevertheless, Americans face new situations today and 
demands crowd in upon them for new and more vigorous 

216 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

policies. We are reminded that Senator Vandenburg with his 
emphasis on Europe and Western unity never disparaged the 
rights of colonial or former colonial peoples. Nationalism is 
on the march in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and 
Americans implore one another to identify their country with 
these movements rather than to appear to stand athwart their 
pathway. Unhappily, the colonial problem is less tractable 
than those exhortations suggest. For at the same time as the 
fight is waged to end old imperialisms, a new and more 
demoniac expansionism threatens. To meet it, some feel that 
America must cleave to trusted friends and allies with whom 
it has interests and military bases in common, striving to 
preserve a more stable world balance of power. Yet, in itself, 
this is not likely to be enough. The present equilibrium of 
power will be upset unless America can join with new forces 
in the so-called underdeveloped areas. We may say, therefore, 
that the United States faces the triple challenge of stemming 
the tide of Russian imperialism and world communism, unit- 
ing the other Western states, and drawing closer to non- 
Western peoples only recently emerging as independent 
states. In a manner of speaking, policy-makers must keep 
three balls in the air. This is the unenviable task of American 
statesmanship. 

The pathos of our present position may be illustrated briefly 
from recent events. First, there was the statement on Goa 
recognizing Portugal's authority in the tiny enclave in India, 
prompted doubtless by the zeal of European officers in the 
State Department to display a sense of community with Portu- 
gal. This provoked deep resentment in India and perhaps 
throughout much of Asia. Next came the expression of "sym- 
pathy" for Greek feelings in the Cyprus dispute by the 
United States Ambassador to Greece, Cavendish W. Cannon, 
which unleashed a torrent of British protest. Then the Dutch 
voiced dismay at Mr. Dulles' warm and friendly comments 
during a visit to the Indonesian Republic. More recently, the 

217 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

United States aroused its European friends by appearing to 
take sides with Egypt, and Middle Eastern friends, by reas- 
suring Turkey against Syria and Russia. Taken together, 
American efforts to cement ties of community and good will 
with one side in the colonial struggle threatened or ruptured 
the bonds of unity with the other. Possibly the one exception 
was Ambassador Dillon's speech supporting France's search 
for "liberal solutions" of her problems in North Africa, and 
even this was challenged by the moderate Tunisian nationalist 
leader Bourguiba. 

Perceiving these problems, can we say anything about this 
perplexing picture that will offer some guidance to the juggler 
or policy-maker of whom we have spoken? Are there guide- 
lines or principles we can enunciate to spotlight a few of the 
darker corners of this colonial problem? Perhaps there are. 
First, we must start with the presumption that the colonial 
problem is fraught with dilemmas with which America must 
learn to live. Nor will dogmas for or against colonialism waft 
them away. Solutions must be worked out case by casej and 
as, for example, Tunisia is not identical with Algeria nor 
Ghana with Southwest Africa, policies must be shaped to 
meet individual needs. Second, timing is of the essence. The 
statement supporting Indonesia stirred up a hornets' nest 
because of Dutch-Indonesian tensions at that time over the 
trial of a former Chief of Dutch Military Intelligence charged 
with plotting to overthrow the Indonesian government, the 
conflict over Netherlands New Guinea, and the unilateral 
abridgment by Indonesia of certain financial and economic 
treaties. Third, if any general solution can be found it rests 
in the coordinating of mutual interests, not in the wholesale 
sacrifice of one set of interests to another. In North Africa, 
French, American, and African long-term interests appear to 
coincide as respects "liberal solutions." Similarly in other 
regions, the goal should be the harmonizing of interests. This 
calls for a judicious balancing of claims. Fourth, it is one of 

218 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

the ironies of history that force may be necessary to preserve 
colonial arrangements, not in order to perpetuate them but 
that their orderly liquidation may be achieved. Fifth, it will 
not do to call every conflict of view between America and its 
European allies a colonial issue. On October 2, 1956, in what 
one commentator called a Freudian slip that betrayed the 
main lines of American thinking, Mr. Dulles noted that 
Britain and America were at odds over Suez on the question 
of the "shift from colonialism to independence." He treated 
Suez as an issue between the "colonial powers" and "the 
powers which are primarily and uniquely concerned with the 
problem of getting their independence as rapidly as possible." 
Walter Lippmann was prompt to point out that Egypt could 
hardly be considered a colony, especially as it sought to expand 
its national power. A British journal observed: "The Ameri- 
can desire to keep the goodwill of the Arab states is good 
sense . . . but it will defeat itself in the end if, in pursuing it, 
the Americans think in anti-colonial conventions which are 
current. ... In that way they will merely seek to please 
everybody, committing their strength to the support of local 
weak men, and overlooking: that the conflicts which trouble 
the region, being real conflicts, require solutions of substance 
which are bound to give offense to some."^ Finally, conflicts 
of interest — as in the past between Britain and India or the 
Dutch and the Indonesians or the French and North Afri- 
cans — may be swept along by powerful historical movements 
until one side emerges supreme. Here it may be necessary for 
American policy-makers to choose sides and in this way inevi- 
tably give offense. These facts need not preclude prudence 
and restraint today in Algeria and tomorrow in the Belgian 
Congo. 

A third dilemma has its roots in the moral problem. The 
question of right and wrong is continuously raised in interna- 
tional relations, as in all the other social orders. Nations as 

^ The Economist (London), December 8, 1956, p. 853. 

219 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

individuals either seek to do, or claim to have done, what is 
right. The nature of Western values as embodied in American 
culture assures that, far from being an exception, America 
persistently aspires to justice and to the goal of international 
order. We are pained when we are told that some aspect or 
another of national conduct cannot be justified in broader 
international terms, yet Americans may take comfort from the 
fact that historically this has been among the most baffling 
philosophical problems. The question is whether an action 
shall be called good if it serves the group of primary loyalty 
or whether it must serve a more inclusive purpose. Political 
morality as distinct from pure law or justice answers this 
question in terms that give it a unique flavor. It looks for the 
point of concurrence between the particular and the general 
value or interest, rather than calling for the sacrifice of the 
part to the whole. Politics can count on a residual egotism or 
self-interest which represents the creative potential of indi- 
viduals and groups. The nascent international community 
must guard against extreme forms of parochial loyalty that 
claim too much and reserve to themselves the right to suppress 
and overwhelm weaker neighbors. Short of this, however, the 
larger community is able to harness, beguile, and deflect the 
more limited national purposes, even though it cannot easily 
transcend them. In Reinhold Niebuhr's discerning words: 
"The individual or the group may feel called upon to sacrifice 
an immediate value for the sake of the more ultimate or 
general interest. But the community cannot demand this sacri- 
fice as its right." Nor, one might add, can another sovereign 
state. 

The American credo of political morality, especially in 
recent years, has been more pretentious and less modest than 
this. It has oftentimes called upon others to sacrifice local 
advantage to some nobler and higher cause. Some of the past 
statements from French, Israeli, Egyptian, and British leaders 
on the Suez crisis have thrown a dash of political realism on 

220 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

the standards that the United States sought to impose. Justice 
and international order are properly considered the broad 
framework of political morality, but their relative emphasis 
in any decision and the particular content they should receive 
can never be determined in advance. The values of com- 
munity and order are frequently in tension with the principles 
of justice, which are liberty and equality. In the fall of 1956 
at Suez, the international order suffered a threat to the peace. 
At the same time three of the nations invoked the principle 
of justice, which in equality calls for giving each man his due, 
including his right to survival. If the national community 
cannot assure a tolerable measure of justice, even though as 
a despotism it maintains order, in the long run its authority 
tends to erode. Similarly, if the international order lacks the 
power and prestige to safeguard all its members, they will be 
tempted to seek justice in other ways. There is an indefinite- 
ness in political morality resulting because "various and fre- 
quently contradictory values are involved in political decisions 
and the preference which is given one value and end over 
another, must be determined by historical contingencies rather 
than fixed principles. There are fixed principles and norms in 
the political realm, but there is no fixed principle for relating 
the norms to each other. It is possible to define as 'bad' only 
those situations in which one or more norms are completely 
wanting. . . ."* 

America's policy-makers by contrast look for shortcuts to 
the moral problem. They talk a great deal more about pro- 
moting the impact of morality than about determining its 
content. They seize on the most readily available expressions 
congenial to their tastes and interests, like "majority rule" 
and "the will of the United Nations." The workings of 
political machinery are invested with all the trappings of a 
religious exercise and political pronouncements are equated 

* Reinhold Niebuhr, unpublished manuscript on "Theory of International 
Politics," p. II. 

221 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

with the glorification of God. Repelled by all the talk of 
"missions" and "crusades," one of our most sensitive critics 
has said: "I would rather be moral than claim to be itj and 
to the extent we succeed in lending moral distinction to the 
conduct of our affairs, I would rather let others discover it 
for themselves." The deep pathos of the moral problem calls 
more for Christian humility than for a moralistic self- 
righteousness, which can win few friends abroad and serves 
only to lower the currency of moral principles. 

The final American dilemma is an outgrowth of the special 
relationship of diplomacy and democracy within the West in 
general and this country in particular. In diplomacy, the 
choice of methods and techniques is no less vital than clarity 
about objectives. Democracies sometimes assume that the de- 
mands of coherence and consistency in diplomacy fall less 
heavily upon them than upon other states. In part this goes 
back to a prevailing outlook about democracy and foreign 
policy. 

The first two decades of the twentieth century witnessed 
the flowering of a philosophy of international politics that was 
unambiguously simple, straightforward, and capable of en- 
gendering widespread popular appeal. This philosophy looked 
in a spirit of buoyant optimism to democracy and national 
self-determination as the twin sources of international peace 
and order. The creation of popular regimes on the Anglo- 
American model everywhere throughout the world was her- 
alded as a sure corrective to the harsh conflicts that for cen- 
turies had wracked international life. New nations brought 
into existence at the will of a self-conscious community of 
peoples would dissolve the rivalries and frictions that had 
always led to conflict among contiguous social groups. The 
faith of modern Western homo safiens in man's potentialities 
for unending progress found its expression on the international 
scene in the assurance that a brave new world merely awaited 
the fulfillment of these goals. 

222 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

It is ironic that this illusion based on an excess of faith in 
essentially divine-right vox fo-puU has in the recent past been 
rudely shaken on numerous fronts. The phenomenon of 
totalitarian democracy, unknown in the nineteenth century, 
has not only left political rivalries and conflict intact but has 
heightened and made virtually irreconcilable the disputes 
among the new collectivities. Inflamed public passions playing 
on statesmen have made moderation and compromise more 
difficult of attainment. National leaders by pandering to popu- 
lar passions have often reduced the alternatives open to 
responsible makers of foreign policy. Nationalism has not led 
to more peaceful relations among peoples who rested content 
with their political status but has bred the most embittered 
antagonisms between new nations and their former colonial 
masters or between non-Western states and their erstwhile 
exemplars in the West. National self-determination and de- 
mocracy can hardly be said to have ushered in a new eraj 
and our more serious observers find deep anguish in the steep 
and sudden decline of influence and self-confidence of the 
Western democracies. The West succeeds in engendering 
resentment and suspicion more often than it earns respect. 
Yet many students and statesmen insist on talking in bated 
breath about the causes and conditions of our decline. The 
bulk of those who assume leadership in intellectual and 
political life are singularly inhibited when it comes to diag- 
nosing the source of our ills. It is commonplace to respond 
to a critical evaluation of the conduct of foreign policy in a 
democracy by pointing the finger of scorn at nondemocratic 
societies that are still more obviously the authors of our most 
recent historic catastrophes. The key to this difficult problem 
is surely not loss of faith in democracy. It is rather a deeper 
awareness of the methods of diplomacy. 

Democratic diplomacy, like all diplomacy, must adhere to 
certain sound principles and rules. It must prove its consistency 
with the diplomatic tradition and the imperatives of efiFective 

223 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

negotiation. Majority votes in multilateral conference or dia- 
lectics, invective, or propaganda may hold a certain fascination 
for the spectators of world affairs. But more often than not 
their effect is to sow international distrust and to increase 
rather than alleviate world conflicts. The first principle worth 
noting is that diplomacy and foreign policy historically have 
not been considered identical. Foreign policy has been viewed 
as the legislative aspect and diplomacy as the executive aspect 
of managing foreign relations. Diplomacy has called for ex- 
perts with freedom of action j policy is a matter for the most 
responsible branches of government, including at some point 
the legislature. Diplomacy is not the framing of policy but 
rather its execution. It is no more a point of focus for public 
attention than is the execution of the national budget as distinct 
from its authorization. 

The Oxford English Dictionary states that: "Diplomacy is 
the management of international relations by negotiation j the 
method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by 
ambassadors and envoys j the business or art of the diplo- 
matist." This definition suggests a second principle. The test 
of diplomacy is not the vindication of some abstract moral 
principle or the rewarding or punishment of virtuous or evil 
forces. It is rather the most effective accommodation of state 
relations that are sometimes in harmony but other times in 
conflict. 

Third, diplomacy calls for an intimate knowledge of the 
mechanics of negotiation, for endless patience in the use of 
numberless expedients in working out agreements, and for 
consummate skill in adjusting national proposals and making 
them acceptable at home and abroad without sacrificing vital 
objectives. 

In recent years many serious writers have questioned 
whether or not diplomacy has measured up to the standards 
inherent in these principles. Looking back on the interwar 
period, Hugh Gibson, who has few peers among twentieth- 

224 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

century American diplomatists and observers, wrote: "What 
we have come to call diplomacy in the course of the past 
twenty years has failed to achieve results and has led into all 
sorts of disasters. But it wasn't really diplomacy. It was the 
usurpation of diplomatic functions by politicians and inept 
amateurs j it was the new method of having the negotiation of 
infinitely complicated world problems handled by politicians, 
amateurs, and adventurers j the forcing on the world in critical 
times of new and untried methods j publicity stunts and hur- 
ried personal discussions between the political leaders, who 
should stay at home and be the heavy artillery in reserve 
rather than trying to direct operations on hurried visits to 
the front-line trenches."^ These words have even greater rele- 
vance today than they had a little more than a decade ago. 

For nearly four centuries the statecraft of Europe had 
certain salient features. It sought, in theory at least, to miti- 
gate and reduce conflicts by means of persuasion, compromise, 
and adjustment. It was rooted in the community of interests 
of a small group of leaders who spoke the same language, 
catered to one another as often as to their own people, and 
played to one another's strengths and weaknesses. When war- 
fare broke out, they drew a ring around the combatants and 
sought to neutralize the struggle. The old diplomacy, so- 
called, carried on its tasks in a world made up of states that 
were small, separated, limited in power, and blessed, ironically 
enough, by half-hearted political loyalties. Patience was a 
watchword 5 negotiations were often as protracted during war 
as in peace. It was taken for granted that talks would be 
initiated, broken off, resumed, discontinued temporarily, and 
reopened again by professionals in whose lexicon there was no 
substitute for "diplomacy." 

Today not one of these conditions any longer prevails, and 
the search for new formulas in diplomacy has gone on apace. 

^ Hugh Gibson, The Road to Foreign Policy (Garden City, New York: 
Doubleday & Co., 1944), p. 63. 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

The first and most novel pattern to crystallize after World 
War II found expression in the United Nations and in what 
is called "popular diplomacy." It looked to international 
forums and to majority votes in the General Assembly as a 
substitute for tortuous paths of traditional diplomacy. It must 
be said that this choice was expressed more rigorously in prac- 
tice than in the United Nations Charter, which emphasized 
talks among the parties to a dispute before an issue was placed 
on the agenda. Popular diplomacy reflects the faith in parlia- 
mentary procedures, in the rule of the people, and in straight- 
forward, rational, and open discussion. It is jointly the product 
of an age of rationalism and an age of popular government. 
It translates into global terms supreme political attainments 
of free people within the democratic state. Popular diplomacy, 
despite the role of the Great Powers in the Security Council, 
marks a swing of the pendulum to diplomacy by all the 
peoples of most of the nations. It is the antithesis of secret 
diplomacy by a concert of leaders of the preeminent countries. 

Because popular diplomacy is the keyboard on which much 
of our postwar diplomacy has been played, we are able to make 
a modest estimate of its success. To use Lester Pearson's 
phrase, we find that the problems of "diplomacy in a goldfish 
bowl" are more intractable than we had supposed. Publicity 
has been both a virtue and a vice. It has kept the spotlight of 
public opinion on world affairs, but it has encouraged the actor 
in world politics, in striking a pose, to take inflexible positions 
from which it is difficult to retreat. Majority votes on Korea 
have demonstrated who controlled greater support j they have, 
however, allowed conflicts of interest to remain untouched or 
have actually contributed to their increase. When this new 
pattern of diplomacy has worked, it has been savored with 
more ancient techniques, as with the private diplomacy of 
Mr. Ralph Bunche in Palestine and of Mr. Philip C. Jessup 
on Berlin, and the "quiet diplomacy" of the Secretary General. 

These successes, however noteworthy, have failed to arrest 

226 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

the sharp swing of the pendulum to another type of interna- 
tional diplomacy. The Eisenhower administration has es- 
poused personal diplomacy as a means of correcting the 
excesses of public negotiations. The first Geneva Conference, 
the United States-Canadian-Mexican Conference at White 
Sulphur Springs, and the meetings with India's Prime Min- 
ister Nehru and with Prime Minister Macmillan of England 
illustrate a new and emerging pattern. It is a pattern based 
upon the President's partiality "for talking things out rather 
than negotiating things out" in an atmosphere of genial infor- 
mality. It reflects the view that some of the roots of conflict 
will dissolve when leaders from other nations, sitting across 
a table from Mr. Eisenhower, become persuaded of his good 
intentions. The personal touch of a famous personality has 
been placed on the scales of world diplomacy. 

The two novel approaches — personal and parliamentary 
diplomacy — are at opposite poles of the spectrum. One empha- 
sizes public speeches, mass assemblies, and resolutions emerg- 
ing from open forums j the other stresses informality and 
man-to-man conferences free of protocol, agendas, and advance 
preparation. (At White Sulphur Springs the Canadians on 
the eve of the conference did not know the topics to be dis- 
cussed.) Yet these new patterns, so divergent in conception 
and design, share one thing in common. They constitute a 
revolt against traditional diplomacy. 

For diplomatists historically the first rule has been that 
negotiations are essential when national interests are in con- 
flict. Since such conflicts arise from causes more basic than 
personal hostility, personal amiability in itself can hardly 
resolve them. Sir Harold Nicolson has argued: "Diplomacy 
is the art of negotiating documents in a ratifiable and de- 
pendable form. It is by no means the art of conversation. 
The affability inseparable from any conversation . . . produces 
illusiveness, compromises, and high intentions. Diplomacy, if 

227 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

it is ever to be effective, should be a disagreeable business, and 
one recorded in hard print."^ 

The trouble with approaches that set aside the lessons of 
the past is that history has a way of returning to haunt us. 
Both popular and personal diplomacy have their place, espe- 
cially if safeguarded against their excesses. The best way of 
doing this is to remember that foreign policy has a memorable 
tradition, not all of which is folly in the present. This is per- 
haps the one means of escaping the final American dilemma. 

III. CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS AND THE 
AMERICAN DILEMMA 

Having said that the United States stands in the predica- 
ment of facing tangled dilemmas instead of clear-cut alterna- 
tives in international life, Americans nonetheless are forever 
tempted in approaching immediate contemporary problems 
to search for hard and firm solutions. For each emergent 
crisis, we all have our answers to settle things once and for all. 
Our leaders hold authority partly by virtue of their ability 
to engender hope. For this positive thinking, they are required 
to pay the price of lack of awareness of the tragic element in 
international politics. We look, for example, at the Middle 
East as an area in which law and order can be vindicated and 
where through an American doctrine the unhappy past can 
be set right. We expect that the recent prestige we have earned 
through the sponsorship of virtue in the United Nations will 
make the Arabs and particularly Colonel Nasser more reasona- 
ble and amenable to long-term commitments on oil and move- 
ments through the Canal. It seems taken for granted that a 
judicious sprinkling of aid will put the Arabs in a cooperative 
frame of mind. All this as Russian influence continues to seep 
in, Nasser extends his sway, the Arab League contends with 
Iraq, and no peace for the area is in sight. 

^Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy (London: Oxford University Press, 1950, 
second edition), p. loi. 

228 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

Another approach to these problems not notably in evidence 
in Washington in recent months takes us back to the political 
realists about whom we talked at the beginning. They urge 
us to look to the historical roots of a problem and remind us 
that Soviet aspirations in the Middle East date back before 
the Bolshevik Revolution. Shortly after 19 17, Moslems were 
brought together in a congress at Baku and exhorted by the 
Russians to strike out on a jihad or holy war against British 
imperialism. These attempts were no more than a modern 
expression of Russia's age-old dream of access to the warm 
waters of the south. Again during the abortive negotiations 
of Russia and Nazi Germany in 1 939-1 941, Molotov specifi- 
cally insisted on Russian control of the Black Sea Straits. 
Following the war, the Soviets probed southward toward 
Iran and Turkey, but fear of war and economic exhaustion 
with its limiting effects on what could be offered restricted 
these attempts. Now the situation has changed, the Russians 
have more prizes in their diplomatic bag, the thermonuclear 
stalemate has reduced the chances of atomic war, and the 
discussions of the Afro-Asian powers at Bandung and after 
inspired the belief that a neutral third force could be used 
to deprive the Western powers of their control over oil. The 
Arab-Israeli dispute was made to order for Russian intrigue, 
despite the fact that both Russia and the United States had 
been godparent to the Israelis at the United Nations. It speaks 
for the flexibility of the Russians in this crisis that they have 
welcomed to their fold some of the world's most reactionary 
potentates. They have extended warmest friendship to coun- 
tries where the mildest agitation for socialist reform is a 
punishable crime. Before the Czech arms deal with Egypt, 
the United States as the sole source of arms to the area ra- 
tioned the supply so as to avert an explosion. With Russia's 
intervention, the West faced the unhappy choice of admitting 
her to the "ring of suppliers" or of leaving her to expand 
her influence alone. Had she been admitted, she would have 

229 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

gained the right to determine matters in a region that hitherto 
was considered a Western preserve. The West preferred to 
resolve this dilemma by doing nothing at all, and today for 
the first time in centuries the Soviet Union sits astride the 
region, having triumphed in its essential goals. We should 
perhaps remind ourselves that Russia's stake is in continuing 
the chaos and tension and in maintaining frontier violence. If 
Israel were annihilated, that would remove the only interest 
that links Russia with the Arab world. At this point, the 
balance sheet of Suez for the Russians is favorable in the form 
of substantial gains in popularity and prestige. While the 
United States made efforts to rally the United Nations, 
scarcely any Arab doubts that the Anglo-French forces were 
decisively halted primarily by the Russian ultimatum. The 
loss of Soviet equipment was a comparatively small price to 
pay for such gains in power and prestige. British and French 
power in the area has been reduced to the vanishing point 
and what began for Nasser as an ignominious military defeat 
has ended in a major political triumph that he as a nationalist 
leader can scarcely ignore. 

In this context, despite our brave words and doctrines, it 
will not be at all easy to halt, contain, or dislodge Russia in 
the Middle East. In such a contest, the Soviets have one great 
advantage J none of their vital interests is at stake. They have 
stepped up trade with some of the Arab countries, but none 
is really essential. Middle Eastern oil is for them a dividend 
and not, as for Western Europe, a necessity. With the second 
Baku field and Rumanian production, Russia estimated it had 
exceeded 100,000,000 barrels of oil in 1958. It therefore 
aspires less to influence in the Middle East than to the denial 
of Western authority there. This fact confronts our policy- 
makers with one of their severest tests. The American answer 
has been made in the form of the Eisenhower Doctrine 
whereby approval has been given to the President's authority 
to use American forces in the Middle East to prevent aggres- 

230 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

sion. In this way we have rounded out our alliances and 
stretched a Western trip-wire across a region formerly out- 
side it. The political supports for this arrangement are of 
course far flimsier than in Europe, where there was little 
doubt that protection would be accepted. However, some 
Arab countries apparently fear Western protection more than 
they do communism and the Levantine world lacks the co- 
hesiveness we associate with Western Europe. Also, we are 
constrained in our aid by the fact that the Arabs, while poten- 
tially neutral in the East-West conflict, are belligerents in a 
struggle with Israel. This has occasioned the view that "So 
long as this state of mind prevails, their gratitude for Ameri- 
can bounty may at any moment be swamped by an arms 
delivery from Russia. Bargainers by temptation, they say they 
must 'turn to Russia' unless the American help materializes. 
But there is no hope that it will serve its purpose unless the 
giver himself turns bargainer — which is the real, immediate 
necessity — and stipulates that only genuine neutrality is worth 
support, that neutrality is indivisible and that if governments 
want help to be neutral towards Russia, they must display 
neutrality towards Israel too.'" This nettle must be grasped, 
but there are few signs that the present administration is 
prepared to press forward in showing the Arab governments 
that they have as great a stake as we in seeking for stability 
and preserving their ties with the free world and that we and 
our friends in Europe can live without them as well as they 
can live without us. This calls for some form of suasion, the 
use of American economic and political power, perhaps 
through alternatives to the Suez Canal and of Middle Eastern 
oil like new pipelines, faster tankers, and perhaps even wider 
international authority. Once this condition of strength has 
been reached, then prospects will increase for an over-all 
improvement or settlement. But the situation calls for time, 

'' The Economist (London), December 8, 1956, pp. 850-51. 

231 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

patience, and great effort — commodities not always in full 
supply. 

The same kind of pattern faces us in Europe. We may 
have to accept and even encourage a unified Western Europe 
whose policies are bound to be independent of ours and may 
sometimes clash irreconcilably. Similarly, on the opponent's 
side of the Iron Curtain, Eastern Europe shows at least signs 
of having uprooted the myth of the political and economic 
solidarity of communist regimes. Much of the unsoundness of 
Stalinism in the satellite countries is now coming out in the 
wash. The Russians have perhaps failed to perceive the full 
implications of the liberalization movement they started, in- 
volving the exchange of political pawns for political partners. 
In Hungary they were caught by surprise and the best they 
could muster was a tragic expedient, not a step in a calculated 
program. The incentives to hold Eastern Europe are no less 
potent than in the past — strategic advance positions both for 
defense and attack. Indeed, radar increases the importance of a 
cordon sanitaire rather than eliminating it. Yet bloodshed in 
Hungary cancelled at least three years of uninterrupted prog- 
ress in the Communist Party with popular fronts and coexist- 
ence. They left the Russians suspended between the tragic 
need to use force and the consequences for their over-all role 
of recourse to overt force and violence. Unhappily this pre- 
dicament is not a Russian monopoly. The same predicament is 
illustrated graphically by the dilemmas of the thermonuclear 
age. If American leaders had occasion to learn anything from 
over two centuries of national experience, it was that foreign 
policy divorced from strength is likely to be impotent. Follow- 
ing two world wars, the United States dismantled its military 
establishment as an earnest of its peaceful intentions and 
goodwill. In both cases, aggressive forces bent on expansion 
seized on these acts to press forward into areas defenseless 
against their power. Both Germany and the Soviet Union 
imposed their will upon helpless nations that fell within their 

232 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

zone of control. The lesson this taught Western leaders was 
that weakness could be no substitute for security, that policies 
harnessed to power were more likely to succeed than those 
drawing strength alone from high ideals and noble expecta- 
tions. The Low Countries in World War I and the Baltic 
States in World War II succumbed not because they were 
lacking in morality but because they found no means of secur- 
ing their national frontiers. 

The West has carried this discovery into the atomic and 
thermonuclear age. It is possible to argue that such peace as 
we have known since 1945 is the outcome of "a balance of 
terror." There are signs that the Soviet Union more than 
once marched up to the brink, threatening to engulf Greece 
and Turkey, Iran, and Berlin, only to march down again when 
it met resistance. Conversely, where resistance proved ambigu- 
ous, uncertain, or divided as in Egypt, Syria, and in the Far 
East, the spread of the Soviet sphere of influence flowed across 
boundaries that had long marked the limits of Russian power. 
Is it any wonder, then, in recent days faced with further 
Russian blandishments and technological advances, that the 
military regeneration of the West has become the rallying 
cry? Or would our conduct not rather be surprising if, aban- 
doning the lessons of a half century and heedless of the risks, 
we turned to embrace a program of unilateral disarmament 
or destroyed our military ramparts without counting the costs. 
Today's spirit in a nation arousing itself from complacency, 
stirring as from a long sleep to sudden consciousness of its 
peril, testifies to deep and latent faith among the people that 
any radical change in the military and technological balance 
of power must be redressed. Our policies reflect the belief 
that history has something to teach. We have learned one 
lesson well but have we learned all that the past and present 
have to tell us? Is there more to history than the truth that 
aggressors must be resisted, that we must match every advance 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

the military element is overwhelmingly the most important 
part. Both Democratic and Republican American Secretaries 
of State during much of the present decade have viewed 
power not as the endlessly complicated relationship of two 
living organisms with goals and objectives both comparable 
and fundamentally unique. Rather, they approach power as 
men might approach a problem in physics to be weighed on 
the simple scales of relative military preparedness and forces 
potentially in being. Yet in farflung corners of the world, 
American influence and power can scarcely be measured in 
these terms. Its existence there is as much a result of spiritual 
and intellectual forces as of military conditions. There it be- 
comes a subtle phenomenon made up of intangibles like 
prestige, the capacity to exert strength implicitly, not explic- 
itly, and the ability to exercise authority without being put 
continuously to the test. Sometimes favorable territorial ar- 
rangements, or a nation's alignment with movements of 
greatest public promise, or solid economic ties of mutual 
benefit are far more a source of power than raw naval or 
military strength. 

Because these aspects of America's position in the world 
are more complicated and impalpable in nature, our national 
leaders and their most responsible critics have had little to 
say about them. In part this has stemmed from the bankruptcy 
of the moralistic tradition in American thinking. This is the 
second source that underlies America's understanding of its 
problems. There are moral e lements in e very power struggle 
but by claiming that these elements stood alone and supreme 
the moralis tLc-lradition has served to enfeeble and destroy 
our capac ity o f dealing with these pro blems. M oralism con- 
tmues to deny the persistence of self-interest, the clash of 
contending groups and forces, and the need for power as the 
minimum precondition of international agreement. The 
moralistic tradition calls essentially for an all-or-nothing ap- 
proach. Either we renounce totally the exercise of force in, 

236 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

say, the Middle East or through total disarmament, and 
couch foreign policy in unqualified moral terms, or we send 
increasing numbers of arms to this unhappy and troubled 
region, make threatening proclamations, and intervene overtly 
in every local dispute. Thus American policy remains sus- 
pended between the towering moralism of Suez and the harsh 
and unsubtle blandishments that go back to the Eisenhower 
Doctrine. Such an approach has no room for more limited 
and proximate moral and political actions. Its moralism is as 
absolute as its stress on military power. Both take root in the 
twin sources of the American outlook: a severely military 
view of power and a Utopian moralism that offers few criteria 
for measuring the moral aspects of any problem. 

Most tragic of all, the naivete and lack of realism attending 
earlier discussions of morality in foreign affairs prompt us to 
view the present crisis with an alarming matter-of-factness. 
We see nothing disturbing about the use of limited nuclear 
weapons which exceed in magnitude the bombs at Hiroshima 
and Nagasaki nor even the prospect of our striking the first 
blow. The sharp and outspoken reactions of our NATO allies 
at the December 1957 Paris Conference was at least partly a 
judgment of the official American state of mind. We were 
criticized not only for being too rigid but for our insensitivity 
to the threat of their annihilation. There is irony in Europe's 
reaction, for not infrequently American policy-makers are 
criticized for being indifferent to all but the moral component 
of foreign policy. It is said that we endlessly moralize upon 
the need for virtue in international life, whether embodied 
in systems of law and order or in resounding international 
proclamations, without being ready to make the sacrifices upon 
which international security must be based. The gap between 
the Stimson Doctrine and our capacity to exert American 
power in the Far East in the 1930's is a case in point. Never- 
theless, there are signs that both the administration and its 
most influential critics have seized on one phase of our present 



THE CENTRAL PROBLEMS 

sponsibility, and sympathy for men struggling with problems 
that are not our problems. It includes the search for a common 
purpose, of a goal however distant at the end of the arms 
race, and of reflection on those political terms which might 
bring men safely through that frightening tunnel we call 
peace by thermonuclear terror. The breakdown of American 
leadership is doubtless due to the lag in American military 
policies, and calls for urgency here are essential. But even if 
we hold our own in this area, we shall lose the struggle if we 
have nothing to offer in the political and economic realm. 

No reasonable man of course can believe that the end of the 
Cold War is in sight or that this offer or that by itself will 
lead to a detente, nor should anyone think we could negotiate 
a lasting settlement from our present position of weakness. 
But if we talk only of new strategic doctrines, new tactics for 
the use of ever more absolute if tactical nuclear weapons, and 
new bases for IRBM's on the soil of unwilling allies to be 
triggered only when they see survival threatened, not we but 
Europe will assume future leadership, as has already been ap- 
parent on at least one occasion in the acts of our most trusted 
ally, Mr. Adenauer of Germany. If American policy remains 
suspended between a rigid, inflexible military posture and 
total and unattainable schemes for complete disarmament, our 
allies in frustration and despair will take matters into their 
own hands and negotiate terms that may be in their selfish 
interests but that will destroy that web of mutual interests, 
so painfully nurtured since the war, which can hold Western 
civilization together. 

This is why political morality demands the wisdom and 
courage to pursue an intelligent, accelerated arms program at 
the same time we seek limited political solutions to concrete 
problems. It can never be satisfied with an anti-missiles effort 
which leaves no room for exploratory talks on the problem 
of Central Europe. The art of asking questions at appropriate 
diplomatic levels, for example, through our Ambassador in 

240 



THE AMERICAN DILEMMA 

Moscow or at sub-summit levels, must never be allowed to 
become a casualty of the present conflict. Private, patient 
diplomacy at the source of a festering tension is more likely 
to bring relaxation than global approaches at the summit. 
"It is idle to reason or argue with the Communists," Mr. 
Winston Churchill observed in a speech to the House of 
Commons on January 23, 1948. "It is however possible to 
deal with them on a fair, realistic basis and in my experience 
they will keep their bargains as long as it is in their interest 
to do so, which might, in this grave matter, be a long time, 
once things were settled." In any case, if the art of diplomatic 
conversations could be recovered and practiced not merely in 
highly publicized conferences, we might discover what possi- 
bilities exist for disengagement in Central Europe, for some 
kind of a lowering of temperature in the Middle East, for a 
recognition that neither side any longer can attain military 
predominance or paramouncy and therefore that we must 
learn to live as equal powers not liking or trusting one another, 
always fearful of rash and heedless acts, but no longer com- 
mitted to that hopeless policy of unconditional surrender 
which has informed our actions in Germany, the Far East 
and Middle East and that will sooner or later carry us over 
the abyss. The concrete measures that might reverse this 
frightening trend would be political in nature. The decision 
to act in this way, however, is a moral choice of men secure 
enough in the final triumph of their cause to take the domestic 
and political risks of which greatness is born. 

There is an Asian saying that "justice must not only be 5 it 
must also be seen to be done." It of course is possible that 
every present criticism of American foreign policy may prove 
misplaced and that both the frantic dedication to more and 
larger bombs and to more absolute moral principles may some- 
day be seen as part of wisdom. At the very least, however, 
the peoples of other countries not only in Asia but Europe as 
well show a profound anxiety with what Americans say and 

241 



EPILOGUE 



All of us share the temptation of allowing the jet stream 
of events — Iraq, Lebanon, Cuba, Berlin — to overwhelm our 
thinking and to shape public opinion. To the extent that 
foreign policy is a practical down-to-earth endeavor, this con- 
tact with the real and the concrete is probably a sign of national 
health. Americans, however, are predisposed as a practical 
people to close their eyes to the broad trends and movements 
of history despite the f orewarnings that are sounded by strong 
leaders in public and private life. 

This was evident in the years surrounding World War I 
when President Wilson cried out for programs that would 
reflect America's international responsibility. His optimism 
and even naivete should not obscure his more enduring 
legacy. He endeavored valiantly, though without any immedi- 
ate success, to rouse the public conscience to an awareness 
that abstention and isolation had lost their relevance, that the 
United States henceforth would be, for better or worse, a 
major factor in everything that transpired in world affairs. 
If Wilson conceived of world responsibility both too narrowly 
and too idealistically, if he assumed that the League and the 
United States in the League were ready to shoulder more 
burdens than proved possible, he at least caught a glimpse of 
the dawning of a new era and expressed this fearlessly. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood at another turning 
point in world affairs. The rise of nazism had not been con- 
tained in Europe, the world balance of power was being 
shattered, and only American power, affirmed and asserted, 
could preserve Western civilization. As the conflict with 
nazism drew to a close, Roosevelt prepared the way for the 
United Nations. 

It fell to President Truman to initiate policies aimed at 



245 



PEACE AND POLITICAL REALISM 

thought are moralistic and legalistic trends and approaches. 
Moralists yearn for a universal change of heart — a transvalua- 
tion of values — prompted by the worldwide human predica- 
ment. Legalists expect that the world rule of law will be 
achieved in much the same way that a common enemy united 
the thirteen original colonies. Other approaches are denounced 
as fatalistic for they have been tried and found wanting. These 
answers are, of course, familiar to anyone acquainted with the 
history of international thought. They were the answers put 
forward when gunpowder, mustard gas, and civilian bombing 
threatened earlier societies. We err by assuming that they are 
revolutionary and novel, and that political realism is archaic 
and static. The dialogue between these contending approaches 
is deeply embedded in all history. 

If we accept this fact, the examination of peace and political 
realism becomes more amenable to calm and reasoned discus- 
sion. The unhappy and misleading identifications alternately 
of realism with war or appeasement can be held up to the 
searchlight of truth and its concepts measured against realities 
as expressed in contemporary world politics. 

First, political realism is fatalistic only in assuming that 
politics of a particularly intense and unrestrained character is 
a necessary concomitant of present-day international society. 
Its fatalism falls short of assuming that war is inevitable 5 
indeed, its main preoccupation is the search for reasonable, 
if limited, measures for the prevention of war. It accepts the 
actors on the international scene for what past and present 
world politics shows them to be — men striving in the first 
instance at least for their nation's security and influence. I am 
reminded of a similar problem — that of understanding eco- 
nomic behavior. In a particularly illuminating essay. Professor 
Frederic C. Lane of Johns Hopkins University has written: 

"Most men most of the time have been occupied in making 
a living. The values that existed for them, not merely as 
aspiration or as ideas to be talked about, but in action and as 

248 



EPILOGUE 

qualities of personal character, were those embodied in the 
daily activities by which they made their living. If bullying 
and fawning, arrogant command and servile obedience were 
the rule in economic life, that is the way men were — that is 
what society was like. Other themes — religious aspiration, 
artistic feeling, and creative intellectual vigor — reward end- 
less historical investigation for their own sake, even when 
they have no discernible connection with social organization, 
but historians interested in justice, freedom, or any other 
qualities of social life have reason to give primary attention to 
the human relations entered into during the processes of 
production and distribution."^ 

The parallel with the processes of the international system 
seem too obvious for comment. 

Secondly, political realism holds to the past only in the most 
general philosophical sense. Change is indeed the first law of 
history, and no event repeats an episode that belongs to the 
past. Both communism and nazism are threats to Western 
civilization, but the ingredients that compose these threats are 
almost infinitely varied. Nevertheless, in terms similar to 
those of the economic historian or economic theorist who sees 
"arrogant command and servile obedience" recurrent in 
economic behavior, the international theorist expects in the 
politics of nations ambition and rivalry and the conflict of 
"national wills" in the struggle to maintain and to change 
every status quo. The realist invokes the past not to repeat 
its successes or failures but to gain what light he can on the 
means by which rivalries were composed in an orderly and 
peaceful way. 

Thirdly, political realism is wedded to particular institu- 
tions or forms only to the extent that they are present in the 
problems confronting policy-makers. The realist is conserva- 

^ Frederic C. Lane, "Economic Consequences of Organized Violence," 
The Journal of Economic History, Vol. xviii, No. 4, December 1958, 
p. 417. 

249 



SELECTED READINGS 



Acheson, Dean, Power and Dlflomacy, Cambridge: Harvard 

University Press, 1958. 
Aron, Raymond, A Century of Total War. New York: Double- 
day & Company, Inc., 1954. 
Bailey, Thomas A., A Dlflomatic History of the American Peofle 

(6th ed.). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1957. 
Belojff, Max, Foreign Policy and the Democratic Process. Balti- 
more: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955. 
Bowles, Chester, Ideasy Peofle and Peace. New York: Harper & 

Brothers, 1958. 
Bowles, Chester, The New Dimensions of Peace. New York: 

Harper & Brothers, 1955. 
Brinton, Crane C, The Anatomy of Revolution (rev. ed.). New 

York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1953. 
Butterfield, Herbert, Christianity y Diplomacy and War. London: 

Abingdon Press, 1954. 
Carr, Edward H., The Twenty Years* Crisis, igig-ig^g: An 

Introduction to the Study of International Relations (2nd 

ed.). London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1940; New York: 

St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1946. 
Cobban, Alfred, National Self -Determination (rev. ed.). Chicago: 

University of Chicago Press, 1948. 
Craig, Gordon A. and Gilbert, Felix (eds.), The Diplomats, 

igig-ig2i9' Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953- 
Dahl, Robert, Congress and Foreign Policy. New York: Harcourt, 

Brace & Co., 1950. 
De Schweinitz, K. and Thompson K. W., Man and Modern 

Society : Conflict and Choice in the Industrial Era. New York: 

Henry Holt & Co., Inc., 1953. 
Dennett, R. and Johnson, J. E. (eds.). Negotiating with the 

Russians. Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1951. 
Dunn, Frederick S., Practice and Procedure of International 

Conferences. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 

1929. 
Earle, Edward M. (ed.), Makers of Modern Strategy: Military 

Thought from, Machiavelli to Hitler. Princeton: Princeton 

University Press, 1943. 



253 



INDEX 



Acheson, Dean, 59, 92, 94., 112, 

124-25) 155) 213 
Acton, Lord, 51, 70, 160 
Adams, President John, 178 
Adenauer, Chancellor Konrad, 164 
aggression, and "aggressor states," 
55; containing of, 141; outlawry 
of, 153; and collective security, 
201 
American colonies, 5 
American foreign policy, and insti- 
tutions, 109-13; leadership in, 
43-47, 48-50; philosophy of, 
1 22-27 
arbitration, 206-10 
armaments, 136, 160, 165-66, 232- 

34 
Armstrong, John P., 187-88 
Aron, Raymond, 247 
Atlantic Charter, 98-99, loi 
Attlee, Clement, 109, 115 

Baker, Newton D., 38 

balance of power, 29-32, 55, 161- 
64, 202; and balance of terror, 
161 

Beard, Charles A., 166-67 

Becker, Carl, 14 

Beecher, Harry Ward, 14 

Berlin crises, 94, 162 

Beveridge, Sir William, 100 

Bevin, Ernest, 102-03, 113, 115 

Bismarck, 5, 8 

Brierly, J. L., 194 

British foreign policy, 104-09; and 
institutions, 104-09; and philos- 
ophy of, 1 1 3-22 

Brodie, Bernard, 15 

Brogan, Denis W., 122-23 

Bryce, Lord, 38 

Buehrig, Edward, 64 

Bunche, Ralph, 226 

Bundy, Dean McGeorge, 33 

Burke, Edmund, 5, 6, 72, 76, 77, 
81, 88, 169 



Butterfield, Herbert, 53, 138-43, 
160, 203 

Carr, E. H., 25-28 

Calhoun, John C, 178 

Cannon, Cavendish W., 217 

capitalism, 116 

Cecil, Lord, 66 

Chamberlain, Neville, 6, 82-83, 
106-07 

Chesterfield, Lord, 71 

China, 54, 117 

Christianity, 138-42, 146 

Churchill, Winston S., 6, 113, 115, 
120, 123, 147-48, 162, 168; on 
British foreign policy, 6, 103; on 
"honour" in morality, 172; and 
Marlborough, 9; on national in- 
terest, 168; on nature of foreign 
policy, 119; relations with An- 
thony Eden, 107 ; on Soviet threat, 
95, q8-ioo, 117, 120; on theory, 
6; on threat of Nazi Germany, 6, 
82; on United Nations, 120; and 
Yalta, 95, 98-100 

Clausewitz, 7 

Clemenceau, 64, 109, 147 

Cold War, 97, 135 

Coleridge, 70 

collective security, 174-76, 189-202 

collective security, Spykman on, 3 1 

colonialism, 216-19 

Commager, Henry Steele, 87 

communism, nature of threat, 93, 

125 

conservatism, 62-90 

Cromwell, 1 1 

Crowe, Sir Eyre, 8, 99 

current events approach to inter- 
national relations, 15-16 

cynicism, 137, 148, 172 

democracy, 3, 5; crusade for, 51, 
161; and diplomacy, 42-43, 95, 
156-58, 222-28; and liberal ra- 



257 



INDEX 



negotiations, and democracy, 42- 
43; and the executive, 43-45; 
Lippmann on, 42-43 ; and Soviet 
advantages, 49 

Nehru, Prime Minister, 211-12, 227 

New Deal, 63, 70 

New Nations, 162-66 

Nicolson, Sir Harold, 162-63, 171, 
227-28 

Niebuhr, Reinhold, and his approach 
to international politics, 23-25; 
on human nature, 12; on indi- 
vidual and collective morality, 
159, 220; on international moral- 
ity, 148-49; and liberal realism, 
90; on liberalism, 73, 74 

Nitze, Paul H., 50, 91-92, 93 

Nixon, Richard, 215-16 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 
no 

optimism, 58 
outlawry of war, 56 

Pact of Paris (Kellogg-Briand Pact 
of 1928), 24, 59, 98, 127, 153 

Pascal, Blaise, 57-58 

Pearson, Lester B., 114, 122, 129- 
30, 154, 226 

Pitt, William, 81-82 

Poland, 98-103, 117, 164-65 

policy-planners, 50-61, 90 

political realism, and conservatism, 
81, 8 8, 89-90; and democratic 
diplomacy, 132; its instrumental 
nature, 70; and its intellectuals, 
66-67, 69-70; and liberalism, 88, 
89-90; and peace, 245-51 

politics, Carl Becker on, 14; dis- 
paragements of, 14; "laws" of, 

14 

political prediction, 3-61 

political science, as pure science, 7-8 

political theory, 7 

Polybius, 5 

Pound, Dean Roscoe, 156 

power, as goal of social life, 62 

power politics, Becker on, 14; elimi- 
nation of, 67; moral restraints on, 



146-47; policy-planners on, 55- 
56; Spykman on, 29, 31, 32, 62 

Pravda, 103 

progress, Enlightenment view of, 
12; and history, 8; institutions 
and, 1 3 ; and international studies, 
17-18; Marxist view of, 12; 
millennial Christian view of, 12; 
not perfectibility, 1 3 ; and policy- 
planners, 57-58; and the United 
Nations, 13 

public opinion, 5, 95-103, 214-16 

Raleigh, Sir Walter, 10 

rationalism, 154 

Reston, James, 48-50 

Richelieu, Cardinal, 171 

Roland, Madame, 4 

Roman Empire, 5 

Roosevelt, President Franklin D., 

67, 87, 123, 213, 245 
Roosevelt, President Theodore, 207 
Rossiter, Clinton, 77, 78, 79 
Rousseau, 4, 56 
Russian imperialism, 125 

Satow, Sir Ernest, 162-63 

science, comparison of medical with 
social science, 7; nature of mod- 
ern science, 33-34; purpose and 
analysis in, 27-28 

scholars, and the study of inter- 
national politics, 15 

self-righteousness, 140-42, 155-59 

Selznick, Philip, 7 

Sevareid, Eric, 48 

Shot well, James, 24 

Smith, Adam, 136 

socialism, 73 

Soviet threat, 32, 98-99, 102, 116- 
17, 124-25, 161-64, 229-32, 233- 
36 

Soviet Union, changes in the, 52; 
its concept of progress, 57; need 
for history to understand, 59; 
its Tsarist background, 1 1 

Southyby, Sir Archibald, 100 

Spaak, Paul Henri, 194 

Spykman, Nicholas J., 28-32, 62 

Stalin, Joseph, 65, 95, 117, 146-47 



260 



INDEX 



Stassen, Harold, 113 

statesmanship, in Anglo-American 
relations, 128-32; doctrine of, 
49 ; and guess-work, 3 ; and phi- 
losophy, 91-104- 

Stimson, Henry L., 189-90 

Strang, Lord (British Undersecre- 
tary of State), 104-09, 131-32 

Suhrawardy, H. S. (Former Prime 
Minister of Pakistan), 11 8-19 

Sumner, William Graham, 178 

Taft, Senator Robert A., 83, 186-88 

theory in international relations, 
Churchill on, 6; related to inter- 
national morality, 166-73; policy- 
planners on, 50-52; and states- 
men, 91-104, 128-32 

Third International, 19 

Thorneycroft, Captain Peter, 96-97, 
loi, 113, 163 

Thucydides, 7, 10, 150-51 

Tocqueville, Alexis de, 5, 6, 51, 56, 
151-52, 161 

Tolstoy, on power, 54 

Toynbee, Arnold J. 151, 191 

treaties, 107-08 

Truman, President Harry S., 43, 
92-93, 245-46 

Truman Doctrine, 93, 124 



security, 189-202; conflicting 
views of, 83; and human rights, 
145-46; and liberal rationalism, 
154-55; ^"d national policies, 
154-55; ^nd new balance of 
power, 163, 166; and political 
approach to, 21; and progress, 1 3 

underdeveloped areas, in the United 
Nations, 163; and world peace, 
40-41 

utopianism, 39 

Vandenburg, Senator Arthur H., 

193 
Vattel, 143 
Visscher, Judge Charles de, 143-46 

Washington, President George, 180- 

81 
Weber, Max, 3 
Weimar Republic, 53-54, 68 
Welles, Sumner, 67 
Wilson, President Woodrow, 16, 24, 

38, 43) 5I) 57) 63, 66, 69, 124, 

129, 151, 159, 213, 245 
Woodward, Sir Llewellyn, 107 
Woolf, Leonard, 115 
world community, 143-44 
World War H, consequences of, 53 
Wyatt, Woodrow, 117 



United Nations, and American for- Yalta, 95-104, 117 
eign policy, 90; and British at- Younger, Kenneth, 108 
titudes, 120, 121; and collective 



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